Updated: June 24, 2021 4:11:45 am
Former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, serving a 10-year prison term in a teacher recruitment scam case and currently out on parole, is set for a premature release from Tihar jail after Delhi government granted a six-month remission of sentence.
Seeking to decongest the jails in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Delhi government on Monday granted the special remission to the inmates who have served nine-and-half years of their 10-year prison sentence, making Chautala eligible to get out of prison.
The four time Haryana CM, who was jailed on January 16, 2013, is on emergency parole since March 26, last year. He was scheduled to surrender on February 21, 2021, but his parole was extended by the high court.
As on February 21, he had two months and 27 days of jail time left which will now be counted as remitted. He will be formally released whenever he surrenders before the jail authority, a Tihar jail official said.
Chautala’s lawyer, Amit Sahni said that he received an e-mail from Tihar jail authorities on Tuesday informing that the senior Indian National Lok Dal leader’s sentence has been remitted. “It is to inform that GNCT, Delhi has passed an order regarding special remission of 6 months to convicts who are sentenced for 10 years and have already completed nine years and six months of custody including regular remission. Further, the said convict (Chautala) was released from this jail on parole, which was extended time to time due to Covid-19 situation. In view of the above, it is informed that the convict has completed his sentence and he is eligible for special remission. The convict will be finally released whenever he formally surrenders before jail authority”.
Chautala, his elder son Ajay — he is father of Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala — and 53 others, including IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar, were convicted and sentenced in the case of illegal recruitment of 3,206 junior basic training (JBT) teachers in 2000. They all were sentenced to varying jail terms in the case by a special CBI court in January 2013.
Kumar, the then Director of Primary Education in Haryana, was first to blow the whistle on the scam and had also filed a plea in the Supreme Court. A CBI probe later found that he too involved in the scam.
In 2018, Centre had come out with a special remission scheme allowing release of such convicts who had been awarded sentence of upto 10 years, were above the age of 60 years and had completed more than half of their sentence. Citing the provision, Chautala had moved a petition in the Delhi High Court for remission. He had stated that was 89 years old and was more than 70 per cent physically challenged.
“We had to approach the High Court several times seeking his release. On several occasions, the High Court even reprimanded Delhi government for not considering his plea despite the fact that he was fulfilling all the parameters for early release,” said Sahni.
Chautala’s prime endeavour would now be to restrengthen his INLD, which is in doldrums. Despite him campaigning for the party in the 2019 Haryana Assembly polls, the INLD suffered a rout. Chautala’s younger son Abhay was the only one who could make it to the Vidhan Sabha from Ellanabad constituency. Abhay, too, earlier this year resigned from his membership of Vidhan Sabha expressing solidarity with the farmers who are protesting against the three central farm laws.
Reacting to the development, Abhay said the Chautala family will always be grateful to the people for their “love and prayers in times of crisis.”
“Under his (O P Chautala’s) leadership, the INLD party will continue on the path shown by Chaudhary Devi Lal and fight for the peasants and weaker sections of the society,” Abhay tweeted.
His son Karan Chautala distributed sweets among people in Sirsa while unveiling a statue of Chautala’s father and former deputy prime minister Devi Lal.
When reporters in Panchkula sought Dushyant’s reaction about his grandfather’s imminent release from jail, the deputy CM said he learnt about the development through the media. “It is a matter of happiness,” he said.
Notably, Dushyant and his father Ajay had floated the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) in 2018 when the INLD split following a feud within the Chautala family. In 2019 Assembly election, JJP won 10 seats and later partnered with the BJP to form government in state.
Dushyant’s younger brother and JJP leader Digvijay Singh Chautala also expressed happiness over the development.
“Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala’s release is a news filled with relief and happiness for us all. He is our inspiration and we have learnt politics holding his hand”.
Blaming the Congress for “hatching a conspiracy against my father Ajay Chautala and grandfather Om Prakash Chautala”, Digvijay, in a statement, said, “The entire Haryana knows how former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda hatched this conspiracy against them to survive in politics. It was due to this conspiracy that Hooda, his son Deepender Hooda, Randeep Surjewala and Karan Dalal had to face defeats in their own citadels. This proved that there was no space for vendetta in politics”.
He said that “even at at this old age”, Chautala “bravely fought” the conspiracy. “His courage and struggle is an inspiration for all of us. Today, we have been able to stand firm in politics only due to his blessings,” he added.
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