In the first conviction after the Supreme Court struck down a law that provided immunity to Mps and MLAs from immediate disqualification,a Special CBI court held on Thursday Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood guilty in a case of corruption and other offences and he is set to lose his seat.
Masood,Minister of Health in the VP Singh government between 1990 and 1991,was held guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool.
Special CBI Judge J P S Malik held Masood guilty of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy),420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery). He has,however,been acquitted of the charge under Section 471 IPC (using as genuine a forged document).
Masood’s conviction is the first case after the July 10 Supreme Court judgement that struck down sub-section 4 of Section 8 of Representation of the People Act,under which incumbent MPs and MLAs can avoid disqualification till pendency of the appeal against conviction in a higher court. The appeal has to be made within three months of the conviction.
Congress member in Rajya Sabha and a party Working Committee member,Masood is all set to be disqualified under the provisions of RP Act that disqualifies anybody who has been convicted under sections of various laws including the Prevention of Corruption Act,1988.
The quantum of punishment on Masood will be pronounced on October 1. The provisions under which Masood has been convicted attract imprisonment upto seven years.66-year-old Masood has been held guilty on same counts in two other similar cases.
The three cases in which the Congress leader has been convicted form part of the eleven similar cases registered by CBI in 1996.
Besides Masood,the court has convicted on similar counts former top bureaucrats Gurdial Singh and retired IAS official Amal Kumar Roy,the then secretary of Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar,in six and five similar cases respectively.
Nine students who had fraudulently got admission in the medical colleges have also been convicted for cheating. Two of them,including Masood’s nephew,were juvenile at the time of the offence and their case had been transferred to the juvenile justice board on January 25,2007.
The then Chief Minister of Tripura Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar and then health minister of the state,Kashi Ram Reang were also accused in the case. They passed away pending trial.
Masood had between 1989-91 illegally and fraudulently,in conspiracy with the then resident commissioner of Tripura,Gurdial Singh,nominated his nephew (who was a juvenile at the time of the offence),one other (also a juvenile) and Sachidanand Dwivedi to seats allocated from central pool for students of Tripura.
Sachidanand,one of the three students who secured admission in medical college through Masood,has also been held guilty for conspiracy,cheating,forgery for purpose of cheating,and also under the provisions of PC Act.
He was,however,acquitted of section 471 IPC (using as genuine a forged document).
In its charge sheets against Masood and others,the CBI had said that Tripura does not have any medical college of its own.
“Consequently some MBBS and BDS seats are allocated every year from central Pool by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,Government of India in various medical colleges across the country like Bhagalpur medical college,Bihar,Patliputra college (Dhanbad) and Gwalior Medical College (MP) etc,” CBI counsel V N Ojha had told the court.
These seats are made available to Tripura for allotment to eligible students from the state on the basis of merit and only those students are eligible for taking the examination who are permanent residents of the state or whose parents have been residing there or are employees of Tripura government.
The Government of Tripura constituted the Tripura Board of Joint Entrance Examination (TBJEE) in 1988 for selection of candidates through joint entrance examination held every year.
CBI had said during 1990-91,Gurdial Singh,an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre while on deputation to the government of Tripura was working as Resident Commissioner of the state and Rasheed Masood was working as minister of state with independent charge of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,Government of India.
As per a file of Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare relating to allocation of MBBS/ BDS seats from Central pool in 1990-91 academic session,22 MBBS and 4 BDS seats were allocated to state of Tripura.
However,corresponding records of Tripura government’s Directorate of Health Services showed that only 17 MBBS seats and 2 BDS seats were allocated for candidates of Tripura by the Union Ministry of Health. CBI said it was evidently clear that 5 MBBS and 2 BDS seats were evidently suppressed from TBJEE and Directorate of Health Services,Tripura.
Referring to one case involving Masood,CBI said he conspired with Gurdial Singh for allotment of MBBS seat to three candidates as a nominee of Tripura.
“In furtherance of this conspiracy,Singh fraudulently,dishonestly and unauthorisedly and by abusing his official position issued nomination letters in favour of Masood’s
nephew for admission in MBBS course in A N Magadh Medical College,Gaya when he was not at all eligible for various reasons and thereby deprived eligible candidates waiting their chance in merit list for admission,” CBI said.
The probe agency had also told the court that Singh and Masood also fraudulently issued nomination letter in favour of Sachidanand by using prescribed performa of Directorate of Health Services,Government of Tripura under his seal and signature.
CBI said Sachidanand was not eligible as nominee of Tripura to get the seat as he was a resident of Uttar Pradesh,the native place of Rasheed Masood and had his education in UP itself. His father was an editor of daily named “Aaj” at Lucknow.
Investigation further revealed that Sachidanand’s father had met Masood with a request to arrange a medical seat for his son.
The CBI also cited the statement of V B mathur,the then OSD to Masood.
Mathur had said in his statement that Masood had instructed him to contact Gurdial Singh to ascertain whether nomination letter in favour of Sachidanand and some other candidates had been issued by him and if already issued,the same be delivered in his office.
Mathur had further said that the nomination letters were delivered by him as per instructions of Masood to the beneficiary candidates. Besides the three seats fraudulently alloted by Masood,Gurdial Singh himself alloted one seat while the then Chief Minister of Tripura,Sudhir Ranjan,alloted two seats.
In similar set of incidents,in academic session 1989-90 also,of the 27 MBBS and 3 BDS seats,5 MBBS and 1 BDS seats were suppressed by Sudhir Ranjan and his then secretary A K Roy.
Initially,the cases were registered by CBI in February 1996 against Singh on the orders of the Guwahati High Court.
The irregularities,CBI said,had come to light when a deserving candidate approached one of the colleges for admission. He,was,denied admission on the ground that the seat has already been filled. The seat was,in fact,given to an undeserving candidate.
He then approached high court which ordered a judicial inquiry and the irregularities came to light.