Manohar Lal Khattar of the BJP and Dushyant Chautala of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) will be sworn in as chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively at the Haryana Raj Bhavan at 2.15 pm on Sunday.
Dushyant’s father Ajay Chautala, who is serving a 10-year sentence in Delhi’s Tihar jail, was granted 14 days’ furlough on Saturday. He was expected to be released late in the evening or on Sunday morning.
Khattar announced details of the swearing-in after Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya invited the BJP to form the government on Saturday. “Dushyant Chautala will take oath as deputy chief minister. A total of 57 MLAs, including 40 of the BJP, 10 of the JJP, and seven Independents today staked claim before the Governor. The Governor has accepted it and invited us to form the government,” Khattar said.
Six of the seven Independents who have extended unconditional support to the BJP are rebels who were denied the party ticket. Following strong criticism from within the party, the BJP declined the offer of support extended by Sirsa MLA Gopal Goyal Kanda, who is facing trial for abetment to suicide of an airhostess of his now defunct MDLR Airlines.
JJP founder Ajay Chautala and his father, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, have been in prison since 2013 after being convicted of corruption, criminal conspiracy, and forgery in the JBT teachers’ recruitment scam. Authorities in Tihar told The Sunday Express that he had applied for furlough — his second this year — some 10 days ago.
“Ajay Chautala has been granted a two-week furlough and it will start from the day he steps out of the jail premises. Usually, furlough can be obtained thrice a year, and is given to inmates with good behaviour. He got his first furlough when his mother died. This is the second furlough, and the reasons given are meeting the family and some puja related to his mother’s death. He applied for furlough around 10 days ago,” Director General (Prisons) Sandeep Goel said in Delhi.
There was no confirmation on whether Ajay Chautala would attend the ceremony at Raj Bhavan. In Chandigarh, Dushyant told reporters that his father had been granted furlough so he could celebrate Diwali with the family.
During an inspection in June, Tihar jail authorities had found a mobile phone in the cell of Om Prakash Chautala. However, an inmate called Ramesh had claimed that the mobile phone belonged to him.
Tihar authorities had subsequently seized a mobile phone from the cell of Ajay Chautala. Asked what action had been taken after that incident, Goel said: “After recovering a phone, we filed a report before a court. The matter is sub judice.”
Tihar officials said that furlough matters do not go to the Home Department, and are decided at the level of the DG (Prisons).
Ajay was released on a 21-day parole on April 15 this year, two days after the Aam Aadmi Party and JJP formed an alliance to contest the Lok Sabha elections in Haryana. No conditions were imposed on his release, and he campaigned extensively across Haryana for the JJP-AAP. Ajay Chautala’s parole ended on May 6, and Haryana voted on May 12. Most JJP-AAP candidates lost their security deposits. The parties fought this month’s Assembly elections separately.
Ajay has been granted furlough even though his plea seeking parole remains pending in Delhi High Court. Counsel for Ajay, Archit Upadhyay, expressed surprise at the development.
“I do not think he has been released. Because the application for his furlough and parole were pending in Delhi High Court. We filed it and the judgment is not out yet,” Upadhyay told The Sunday Express.
Ajay was released in June to enable him to appear in an examination in Sirsa. His lawyers told the Delhi High Court that he was pursuing a PG Diploma in Counselling and Behaviour Modification (PGDCBM) under the distance education programme of Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology, Hisar.
He then filed another application in the High Court seeking parole to appear in an examination beginning July 15. The plea was dismissed, and counsel for Ajay withdrew the petition. In October, Ajay went back to the High Court seeking parole. His petition is pending.
On being told that the DG (Prisons), Tihar jail, had granted Ajay Chautala a furlough of 14 days, Upadhyay said, “Maybe a custody one, not a regular one. But I do not think so. I do not have any further information on it. Maybe the jail authorities can reveal more.”
A senior advocate in Delhi who has been tracking Ajay Chautala’s cases of parole and furlough, said: “Under Delhi prisons rules, jail authorities are supposed to decide on furlough applications in 3-4 weeks. However, some applications are decided in 1-2 days, others may remain pending for even eight weeks.”
According to the lawyer, who declined to speak on the record, “The DG (Prisons) is competent to decide on an inmate’s parole/furlough request. It is not necessary for jail authorities to inform the court each time they are granting parole/furlough to an inmate.”
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On August 3, 2016, the Supreme Court had dismissed the appeals of Ajay Chautala and Om Prakash Chautala against the High Court’s verdict upholding their conviction and the sentence of 10 years awarded by the trial court. In its March 5, 2015 order, the High Court had said: “The overwhelming evidence showed the shocking and spine-chilling state of affairs in the country.”
The father-son duo and two IAS officers were among 55 persons convicted on January 16, 2013 by the trial court for illegally recruiting 3,206 JBT teachers in Haryana in 2000.
After being named Haryana’s deputy chief minister elect on Saturday, Dushyant said: “There cannot be an occasion of greater happiness for me than to have my father support us at a time when the foundations of change are being laid.”
Khattar, who will remain interim chief minister till his new government takes charge, did not disclose who other than Dushyant and he would take oath on Sunday. He did say that “some ministers shall also be taking oath”, but did not specify their number or names. Sources said at least two MLAs from the JJP and at least one Independent could be part of the government.
The BJP, which has won 40 seats in the 90-member Assembly, announced an alliance with the JJP on Friday evening. BJP national president Amit Shah said in New Delhi that the alliance would work for the next five years in the larger interest of Haryana.