Sukh Ram contests conviction, CBI asked to respond

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Friday asked the CBI to respond by Monday to former telecom minister Sukh Ram’s petition, contesting his conviction and five years’ rigorous imprisonment given by a trial court on corruption charges.

The former minister approached the high court for relief on the ground that the trial court had wrongly convicted him and he was suffering from health problems. The high court issued the notice to the CBI, returnable Monday.

Sukh Ram’s counsel Arvind Nigam said: “The trial court’s order should be set aside as it has wrongly convicted him. It has not even gone through some documents while awarding jail sentence.”

He added that the trial court has convicted his client merely on the basis of “speculation”.

Taking note of Sukh Ram’s submission, Justice Suresh Kait issued the notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The court also sought Sukh Ram’s medical report on his plea for suspension of the sentence on health grounds and old age.

Eighty-six-year-old Sukh Ram, who held the telecom portfolio in the P.V. Narasimha Rao-led Congress government, was convicted Nov 18 for taking Rs.3 lakh as a bribe to award a cable contract to a telecom firm in 1996.

He was handed out five years’ jail term by Special CBI Judge R.P. Pandey Nov 19 for misusing his official position and was immediately taken into custody and sent to Tihar Jail. The court also imposed Rs.4 lakh fine on him.

This was his third conviction on graft charges.

Sukh Ram was earlier convicted in two corruption cases in 2002 and 2009 but remained out of jail.

“The octogenarian convict has already reaped the dividend of a long-drawn process of law and despite having been convicted in two other corruption cases, he is enjoying freedom, which is passing a wrong message to the public at large and strengthens the popular belief that one can earn money by corrupt means and enjoy its fruits by spending some portion of it,” said the trial court order delivered Nov 19.

Referring to the judgment in which the judge had relied on circumstantial evidence, Sukh Ram’s counsel stated that the court had ignored the fact that the CBI had failed to seize the envelope in which the money was kept.

“Despite some prosecution witnesses not supporting the CBI’s claim that six bundles of Rs.500 denomination (Rs.3 lakh) along with a visiting card were kept in the envelope, the trial judge held Sukh Ram guilty,” Nigam argued.

Counsel said: “The entire claim of CBI about the money and the visiting card contained in the envelope was bogus. Neither the currency nor the envelope was produced before the trial court.”

The lawyer also argued for the suspension of Sukh Ram’s sentence and his immediate release on bail on health grounds.

“Sukh Ram is on regular insulin as per the doctor’s advice,” Nigam said.

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