New Delhi : A Delhi court Saturday sentenced former telecom minister Sukh Ram, 84, to five years rigorous imprisonment for misusing his official position when he was in the P.V. Narasimha Rao cabinet in 1996. This was his third conviction on corruption charges.
Pronouncing the judgment, Special CBI Judge R.P. Pandey said: “After giving much thoughtful consideration to all the relevant aggravating and mitigating factors, I sentence convict Sukh Ram to under go rigorous imprisonment for five years for offence committed by him under 13 (1) (d) read with section 13 d of the Prevention of Corruption Act.”
The court has also imposed a fine of Rs.400,000 on him.
“The court can not remain oblivious to the fact of shaken public confidence in the efficacy of law to deal with corruption, particularly when it is the question of tackling the corruption case of high ranking public servants such as ministers and therefore the court can not afford to be excessive lenient with such convicts,” the judge observed.
Sukh Ram was convicted Thursday by the court which found him guilty of accepting a bribe of Rs.3 lakh from a private firm 15 years ago.
The court noted that Sukh Ram misused his ministerial position in awarding a contract worth Rs.30 crore to a private telecom firm for supplying cables to the government at inflated rates that caused huge monetary loss to the state exchequer.
The corruption case dates back to 1996, when the ministry awarded private firm, Haryana Telecom Limited (HTL), a contract worth Rs.30 crore to supply 3.5 lakh km of polythene insulated jelly filled (PIJF) cables to the telecom department.
Sukh Ram had been put on trial along with HTL chairman Devinder Singh Choudhary who died during the trial.
During the course of arguments on the quantum of sentence, Sukh Ram’s counsel pleaded that his client is an octogenarian and attending the trial for the past 12 to 13 years.
The defence lawyer has sought leniency on the grounds that his client is suffering from age-related ailments and has also lost his wife.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) prosecutor, however, termed Sukh Ram as a habitual offender saying he has been sentenced in two other cases also and thus deserved no leniency.
“We should not forget that he was an MP and a minister and has betrayed the confidence of public at large,” said CBI prosecutor.
Meanwhile, Sukh Ram said he was a victim of a political conspiracy and would seek justice from a higher court.
“I am a victim of a political conspiracy. I will not end my fight here. I will move a higher court to get justice. I will come out clean,” Sukh Ram told IANS over phone from his residence in Noida.
He was attacked by a man in the Rohini courts complex here after his sentencing Saturday.
Harvinder Singh slapped and kicked Sukh Ram just as he came out of the court. The assailant was detained by police and taken to Prashant Vihar police station. The former union minister was unhurt in the attack.
Sukh Ram has been convicted twice earlier on separate corruption charges. In 2009, he was convicted for owning disproportionate assets worth Rs.4.25 crore.
Earlier in 2002, he was sentenced to three years in jail in another corruption case, in which he was held guilty for causing a loss of Rs.1.66 crore to the public exchequer in award of a contract to a Hyderabad-based firm for supplying some equipment to the government using fraudulent means.
The Himachal Pradesh politician, who is currently out on bail, has been convicted for offences which entail a maximum punishment of a seven-year imprisonment.
A seven-time legislator and three time MP, Sukh Ram was expelled from the Congress at a time when his son Anil Sharma was a minister in Himachal Pradesh.
In 1997, he had floated Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC). He was inducted in the cabinet of the Bharatiya Janata Party-HVC government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal on March 24, 1998, but had to resign when charges were framed against him in corruption cases.