New Delhi: A Delhi court sentenced former BJP president Bangaru Laxman to four years in jail in the 2001 fake arms deal case. Bangaru has also been imposed with a fine of Rs one lakh. Bangaru was convicted for taking a Rs one lakh bribe to push a defence deal in a sting operation 11 years ago.
The court came tough on corruption and said in its judgement, "Time to shun the sab chalta hai syndrome." Holding that "corruption is worse than prostitution" as it endangers the whole society, Special CBI Judge Kanwal Jeet Arora turned down 72-year-old Laxman's plea for leniency saying "we have to shun this attitude of 'sab chalta hai,' where nothing moves without illegal gratification."
Laxman was taken to Tihar Jail, shortly after he was sentenced. His counsel said they would move the high court to challenge his conviction and sentencing.
The court said that by accepting a bribe, Bangaru Laxman kept personal interest above the national interest.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on Bangaru, who had been caught on camera accepting the money in his chamber in the party headquarters and had to quit as its president shortly after the sting expose which had created a huge political storm.
This is the first instance of a national party president getting convicted and sentenced to a jail term in a corruption case for accepting a bribe in his office chamber in the party headquarters in 2001. By accepting the bribe, Laxman had kept his personal interest above the national interest "ignoring the security of soldiers" who put their lives in danger while fighting for the nation, the court said.
"The convict (Bangaru) had kept his individual interest over and above the national interest and has even agreed to compromise with the security and safety of the nation. He had agreed to help a company i.e. M/s Westend International, coming to him for getting a supply order of defence related equipments to Indian Army.
"He agreed to compromise with the lives of lakhs of soldiers who without fearing for their lives, fight for the
nation," said the court, which convicted him under section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, said. "Corruption, to my mind is worse than prostitution as the latter might endanger the morals of an individual, whereas, the former invariably endangers the entire society. It is virulent for the nation and makes people full of ire.
"However, the problem is that, when a society which publicly rues corruption, but privately indulges in it, then we need to ask ourselves, do we really want a corruption-free society," the judge said.
The judge in its 14-page order on sentence said "balancing the twin interest of society and that of the convict, I am of the opinion that interest of justice would be met, if the convict is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a term of four years and to pay a fine of Rs one lakh for the offence under Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act."
The court said the case before it was one of "political corruption" as Laxman had committed the crime when he was the chief of a political party which was the largest constituent of the then NDA government.
Emphasising upon the need to make India a corruption-free country, the judge said it can be achieved by providing value education to all, so that "we can become responsible citizens, having strong character which when tested at the time of crisis, is exhibited."
"We do not want those honest person who are honest till they get a chance or opportunity to be dishonest. Further, it can be achieved by having the proper implementation of the existing laws," the court said while adding that "sab chalta hai" attitude has to be shunned.
"It is often said that the accomplice of the crime of corruption is generally our own indifference. 'Sab chalta hai' (it's ok, whatsoever!) syndrome has led us to the present situation, where we are, where nothing moves without an illegal consideration. People are forced to pay for getting even the right things done at right time. It is right time to shun this attitude," it said.
Taking a strict view of Bangaru's offence, the judge said though the firm, its product and the entire deal was fake and fictitious but the intentions of Bangaru, who took the bribe for recommending the device to the ministry, was real.
"No doubt, the company i.e. M/s Westend International and the product i.e. Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTIs), which they were promoting were both fictitious, but this fact was only known to representatives of the company, who had approached the convict for favour.
"Laxman had agreed to exert his personal influence in favour of the fictitious company for his personal gains by way of getting illegal gratification with the intention and belief that the product for which a supply order was required, was genuine," it said.
However, the CBI counsel had pleaded for maximum punishment of five years for Laxman.
Laxman was convicted by a Delhi court for taking a Rs one lakh bribe to push a defence deal. The on-camera Tehelka sting operation took place 11 years ago, forcing Laxman to give up his post as BJP President then.
The FIR in the case was registered on December 6, 2006 against Bangaru, his assistant personal secretary N Umamaheshwar Raju and personal secretary T Satyamurthy.
Satyamurthy, however, had been granted pardon by a trial court after he turned an approver in the case, while the trial could not proceed against Raju due to lack of evidence.
On Friday, the court in its 155-page judgement had said that Laxman received money to "influence the public servants". "I am of the considered opinion that CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) had been able to establish the necessary ingredients of offence under section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption act, 1988 against accused Bangaru Laxman beyond reasonable doubt," the court had said.
(With additional information from PTI)