Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chautala and son convicted, jailed in 1999 teacher hirings scam

Former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala and two IAS officers were among 55 people convicted by a special CBI court in New Delhi Wednesday of illegally recruiting teachers in 1999.

All 55 convicts in the case, known as the JBT (Junior Basic Trained teachers) recruitment scam, were taken into judicial custody and sent to Tihar jail until January 22, when the court is scheduled to pronounce the quantum of sentence. Most of the 55, which includes 15 women, are now retired.

Among the officers convicted by Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar were political adviser to the then Haryana chief minister, Sher Singh Badshami, Chautala’s former officer on special duty, Vidya Dhar, and the then director of primary education in the Haryana government, Sanjiv Kumar. Dhar and Kumar are IAS officers.

The court said the 55 were guilty of criminal conspiracy, cheating with the intent to cause wrongful loss, forgery and use of forged documents, as well as for criminal misconduct by public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act during the recruitment of more than 3,000 primary school teachers in Haryana.

The crimes are punishable with imprisonment of between one and seven years, along with a fine. The court will now hear arguments on the quantum of sentence over the course of the next week and sentence them on January 22.

Labeling Om Prakash Chautala as the “main conspirator” in the case, the court also held that Ajay Chautala, then a MP from Bhiwani, was in constant touch with Kumar in 2000 when the fake award list was being prepared.

“Ajay Chautala had a stake in the parliamentary constituency of district Bhiwani and the final result shows that the candidates selected from that district far exceeded the vacancies of that district,” the court said, noting that this circumstance also pointed to his role in the conspiracy.

Reacting to the verdict, Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) said the judgment of the CBI court would be challenged. A statement by the Haryana unit of the party said all party leaders arrested in the case were innocent and this would be proved in a higher court.

Kumar was originally a whistleblower in the case and had approached the Supreme Court in 2003 alleging that lists of marks awarded to successful candidates in the recruitment process had been tampered with under pressure from the then CM Chautala and others. The Supreme Court had ordered a CBI inquiry in November 2003 and the CBI filed its chargesheet in 2008.

The CBI investigation revealed that the initial conspiracy was hatched at a meeting at Haryana Bhawan in Delhi, giving the Delhi court jurisdiction over the trial.

The probe had found that primary education director Rajni Sekhri Sibal, who deposed as a witness, had originally sealed the lists of marks awarded to the candidates in the oral exam for recruitment as primary school teachers in December 1999. However, she was pressured to change the lists by Chautala and others, and was transferred out of the education department after she refused to change the marks of candidates.

Kumar, who was appointed director, primary education, changed the lists in conspiracy with Chautala, Dhar, Badshami and others in September 2000, and declared the recruitment process results in October 2000, employing 3,206 candidates as JBT teachers in 18 districts. Kumar had approached the Supreme Court after allegedly falling out with his co-conspirators.

“When Rajni recommended for compilation of results vide her note sheet of June 20, 2000, she was also transferred and Sanjiv Kumar was appointed in her place,” the court said, adding that Kumar’s testimony proves he was brought with a “specific mandate of changing the award lists”.

The prosecution had said that the recruitment process was changed on the orders of CM Chautala. Previously, the staff selection commission was responsible for the recruitment of teachers but Chautala took away its powers and gave it to the primary education department.

“Thus, the conspiracy which started from taking out the vacancies of JBT teachers out of the purview of the staff selection commission vide cabinet decision of September 8, 1999 was fully executed and successfully ended when the successful candidates based on the fake lists were given appointments in October 2000,” the court said.

“Hence, a complete chain of events involving all the accused persons in commission of this offence stands proved beyond reasonable doubt,” it added.

Initially, 62 people, including several block and district level education department officials and principals of some schools were accused in the case but six among them died during the probe and the trial and one was discharged during the trial.

A crowd of about 100 people had gathered outside the Rohini court complex and shouted slogans against the Congress party, Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the CBI and the Delhi Police.

Some of the protesters, who claimed to be family members of the teachers, criticised the court order and said that Chautala had only helped poor people get jobs and should not have been convicted.

At last we are seeing some conviction of politicians.

Let us hope the trend continues.

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