A Delhi court Saturday awarded four years’ rigorous imprisonment to former Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) president Bangaru Laxman for accepting a bribe from a fake arms dealer in an 11-year-old graft case. Laxman announced he would appeal his conviction.
Additional Sessions Judge Kanwaljeet Arora, who also slapped him with a Rs.1 lakh fine, handed down the sentences on the BJP leader after holding him guilty Friday and sending him to judicial custody.
Pronouncing the sentence, Arora, who is also special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge, said: “Balancing the twin interest of the 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.1 lakh for the offence under section 9 of Prevention of Corruption Act.”
“The accomplice of the crime of corruption is generally our own indifference. ‘Sab chalta hai (Anything goes)’ syndrome has led us to present situation… where we are, where nothing moves without an illegal gratification,” remarked the court.
The court said that people are forced to pay for getting even the “right things done at right time”, and urged people to shun an attitude.
Showing no leniency to Laxman, the court said that being the president of a political party, Laxman was supposed to show exemplary character and lead by example, but he had not done this.
Laxman’s counsel told reporters that they will move the Delhi High Court against the verdict.
The case dates back to 2001, when newsportal tehelka.com carried out a sting operation that caught Laxman on camera receiving Rs.1 lakh in cash from a journalist posing as an arms dealer. He later resigned as the BJP chief.
Tehelka had released CDs showing Laxman accepting money for promise of assistance to a fictitious Britain-based company M/s West End International in securing a contract for the supply of hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs) to the Indian Army.
“No doubt the company i.e. M/s Westend International and the product ie HHTIs which they were promoting were both fictitious, but this fact was only known to the representatives of the company, who had approached the convict for favour,” the court said.
The court observed that Bangaru 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 is required, is genuine.
The court said that the essence of sentencing is the balancing of interests of community on one hand and that of accused and his family on the other, within the framework of law.
“The problem of large-scale rampant corruption, more particularly, the political corruption is weakening the political body and damaging the supreme importance of law governing the society,” said the court.
The Delhi court May 2011 framed corruption charges against Laxman. The CBI, in its charge sheet, said that Laxman accepted Rs.1 lakh from the representatives of the purported firm in 2001 at his party office for pursuing their proposal to supply certain products to the army.