Eleven years after he was caught on camera allegedly accepting cash in a sting operation,former BJP president Bangaru Laxman was today held guilty by a trial court. He is the first to be convicted in the cases registered following Operation Westend,a series of sting operations conducted by Tehelka.com journalists in 2001,pretending to be suppliers of defence products.
The CBI has been able to establish the case… Accused Bangaru Laxman stands convicted… under Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, Special CBI Judge Kanwaljeet Arora said. … On January 5,2001,(he) had accepted illegal gratification of Rs 1 lakh… and further agreed to accept the balance amount (Rs 4 lakh) of illegal gratification in dollars as a motive or reward for exercise of personal influence on the public servants working with the Ministry of Defence.
Bangaru was president of the BJP,the ruling party at the Centre,at the time. He had to resign following the scandal.
Bangaru was taken to jail soon after the order was pronounced. The judge turned down his plea for bail,saying this could only be considered after the sentence was pronounced. The CBI is expected to push for the maximum punishment of five years at tomorrows hearing on the sentencing.
The court,which had reserved its judgment on April 3,described the methods used by Tehelka as objectionable but refused to accept Bangarus plea to make the news portal an accused. I am of the opinion that the method adopted by Tehelka people may be objectionable but their purpose was not, the judge said.
In its chargesheet,the CBI said Tehelka journalists had held eight meetings with Bangaru between December 23,2000,and January 7,2001,pretending to be suppliers of defence-related products. Bangarus former personal secretary T Satyamurthy,a co-accused,had been granted pardon by a trial court after he turned approver.
Tehelka journalists had also offered bribes,allegedly to several senior Army officers and bureaucrats.