New Delhi, 1 October
A Delhi court today sentenced Rajya Sabha MP and special member of the Congress Working Committee, Rasheed Masood, to four years in jail in a corruption case. As per the recent Supreme Court judgment disqualifying lawmakers who have been sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years, he will be the first MP to lose his seat.
Besides the imprisonment, special CBI Judge J P S Malik also imposed costs of Rs 60,000 on the 67-year-old Masood. Soon after the sentence was pronounced, the court ordered that the convicts be taken into custody.
The court has held Masood guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool as Health Minister in the National Front government of 1990.
Masood was held guilty of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery). However, the court acquitted him of the charge under Section 471 IPC (using as genuine a forged document).
Besides Masood, the court awarded four-year jail terms each to two other public servants, a former IPS officer, Gurdial Singh, and retired IAS official, Amal Kumar Roy. Roy was then secretary of Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar.
The court also awarded one-year imprisonment each to nine students convicted in the case. Apart from the imprisonment, the court imposed a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh on Singh, Rs 1 lakh on Roy and Rs 40,000 each on the nine students.
During the arguments on the quantum of sentence, the counsel for Masood sought benefit of probation, citing his long service to the nation and health reasons. Counsel for convicts Gurdial Singh and Amal Kumar Roy, too, sought leniency citing old age and health problems of their clients.
However, the CBI opposed the plea for probation. “He (Masood) and the other two public servants convicted in the case should be given maximum punishment as the students who suffered nearly two decades ago cannot be compensated for,” said the CBI counsel.
The agency added that Masood is a “lawmaker turned into a lawbreaker” even after taking oath to abide by the Constitution, which says all are equal before the law. Regarding Singh and Roy, the agency said both were “law protectors but both turned into lawbreakers”.
The nine students have moved bail applications to enable them to file an appeal against their conviction and sentence before the superior court.
The nine students, who had fraudulently got admission in the medical colleges, were convicted for cheating. Two of them, including Masood’s nephew, were juveniles at the time of the offence. Their case had been transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board on 25 January 2007.
Masood has been held guilty on the same counts in two other similar cases. The three cases in which the Congress leader has been convicted form part of 11 such cases registered by CBI in 1996.
The then Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar and the then Health Minister of the state, Kashi Ram Reang were also accused in the case. However, both of them passed away during the pendency of the trial.