NEW DELHI (TIP): The Delhi high court on Feb 5 upheld the conviction and 10-year jail term of former Haryana chief minister O P Chautala, 80, observing that he cheated the youth of his state in the JBT teachers’ recruitment scam.
Justice Siddharth Mridul also upheld the prison terms of Chautala’s son Ajay, two IAS officers Sanjiv Kumar and Vidya Dhar along with the former CM’s political adviser Sher Singh Baddhami — all of whom had got 10 years —pointing out that a teaching cadre “inducted through patronage, nepotism and corruption cannot, morally, be higher than the methods that produced it and be free from the sins of its own origin”.
“So this is the end of the road, appeals have been dismissed,” the judge remarked before pronouncing the verdict. He, however, took a lenient view of the remaining 50 convicts, recognizing that they were pressured to be part of the scam and reduced their jail term to two years. They had been awarded 4-10-year terms.
A CBI court had on January 22, 2013, found the Chautalas and others guilty of illegally recruiting 3,206 junior basic trained teachers in 2000.
The court observed that Chautala, as the then chief minister of Haryana, could have been a figure of hope and inspiration to the youth of the state. “Cheating them of their future deserves punishment of the highest kind,” it said, refusing to show any leniency to the politician on grounds of his advanced age and the fact that he is “towards the tail end of his political career”.
While IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar, the then director of primary education, had claimed to be a whistleblower on the scam, the court found evidence establishing his complicity. The other officer, Vidya Dhar, was the then officer on special duty (OSD) to the chief minister.
Justice Mridul, in his 400-page verdict found “overwhelming evidence” of the manner in which the scam was given effect to, adding it showed the “shocking and spine-chilling state of affairs in the country”. It directed Ajay Chautala, out on medical bail, to surrender immediately to serve the remaining sentence.
Referring to the role played by the politicians and the senior bureaucrats in the scam, HC noted that “an ingenious employment scam spanning across 18 districts of state of Haryana was given effect to by persons at the helm of power and the entire bureaucratic machinery fell prey to its satanic influence”. It said the common thread between Chautalas, the two IAS officers and Sher Singh Badshami was the “flagrant disregard towards the system” that led to shaking of public confidence.
“Each one of them played a role in disrupting the established process to achieve their object. Not only did they offend every duty they had to the office they were holding, but in the process, also challenged the ethical standard of every other public servant and compelled them to abandon their otherwise perfect career records,” HC observed.
It added that “such scams not only result in dissemination of poor quality education to millions of children who are bound to suffer, but also unfairly deprive the competent participants in such selection processes an opportunity to gain public employment and meaningfully serve the country.”