The Delhi High Court on Thursday upheld the 10-year jail term for former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and four others, including his son Ajay Chautala, for their role in the teachers’ recruitment scam which, the judge observed, showed the convicts’ “flagrant disregard” towards society and system.
“Such scams not only result in dissemination of poor quality education to the millions of children, who are bound to suffer, but also unfairly deprive the competent participants in such selection processes an opportunity to gain public employment and meaningfully serve the country. Public confidence is bound to get shaken…,” said Justice Sidharth Mridul in a 400-page order.
Besides the Chautalas and “whistleblower” IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar, the then director of primary education, the court also upheld 10-year jail term for IAS officer Vidya Dhar, then officer on special duty of the CM, and Sher Singh Badshami, the then MLA and political adviser to Chautala senior.
The HC, however, reduced the jail sentence to five senior education department officials from 10 years to two years, observing they had “come under pressure” from the senior officials. The punishment for 45 remaining accused have also been reduced to two years as the court noted they had been “pressured”.
Fifty-five people had been convicted and sentenced under various sections of the IPC, and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act by a special CBI court in January 2013 for illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained teachers in Haryana in 1999- 2000.
The court had awarded 10 years imprisonment to the Chautalas and eight others, including five senior education department officials who had signed the “forged” lists of teachers eligible for recruitment. Forty-four accused had been sentenced to four years in jail.
The HC accepted the arguments by Additional Solicitor General RK Khanna and senior CBI prosecutor Rajdipa Behura on the guilt of all the accused, and dismissed their appeals against conviction.
Dismissing Chautala’s plea for leniency on grounds that he was a senior citizen (80-year-old), Justice Mridul: “The man was the chief minister of Haryana, capable of much hope and an inspiration to the youth of the state. Cheating them of their future deserves punishment of the highest kind.”
The court also noted that as authorities concerned, the Chautalas, Badshami, Dhar and Kumar had shown “flagrant disregard towards the system.” All accused have now been directed to surrender before jail authorities.
The HC dismissed IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar’s plea to be given protection as a “whistleblower”. Kumar had “exposed” the scam by filing a petition in the Supreme court in 2003. The court, however, said that Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 would not apply in the case.
“Provisions comprised therein do not contemplate a concept of ‘automatic pardon’ or a carte blanche immunity to an informant who is himself found to be in-pari delicto and a participant criminis, masquerading in the guise of a public spirited ‘whistleblower’.”