NEW DELHI: Rajya Sabha member and Congress leader, Rasheed Masood, was on Tuesday sentenced to four years in jail by a Delhi court in a corruption case, becoming the first MP to lose his seat after a recent Supreme Court judgement had removed the immunity for convicted lawmakers.
67-year-old Masood, who attains the dubious distinction of being the first lawmaker to be disqualified after the July 10 Supreme Court judgement, was immediately taken into custody by the court.
Special CBI Judge JPS Malik handed down the jail term to Masood after holding him 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. The court also imposed costs of Rs 60,000 on Masood.
Masood’s conviction and sentencing is the first case after the Supreme Court judgement that struck down a provision in the Representation of the People Act, under which incumbent MPs and MLAs could avoid disqualification till pendency of the appeal against conviction in a higher court.
On Monday, a court in Ranchi convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Jagadish Sharma, both Lok Sabha members, in a fodder scam case. Their sentencing is scheduled for October 3 following which they also face disqualification.
Besides Masood, the court has awarded four-year jail term each to two other public servants, Gurdial Singh, a former IPS officer, and retired IAS official Amal Kumar Roy, the then secretary of Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar.
Masood was held guilty of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC Sections 120-B(criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery). He, however, was acquitted of the charge under Section 471 IPC (using as genuine a forged document).
The court, which has convicted nine students in the case, has also given one year imprisonment each to nine of them.
It also imposed a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh on Singh, Rs one lakh on Roy and Rs 40,000 each on the nine students.
Soon after the sentence was pronounced in the jam-packed room, the court ordered the custody of the convicts.
The nine students have moved their 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 juvenile at the time of the offence and their case had been transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board on January 25, 2007.
The then Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar and the then Health Minister Kashi Ram Reang were also accused in the case. They passed away during the pendency of the trial.
During the arguments on sentence, the counsel for Masood sought benefit of probation, citing his long service to the nation and health reasons.
However, CBI prosecutor V N Ojha opposed his plea for probation, saying, “Rasheed Masood does not deserve anything less than seven years (in jail) and a hefty fine should be imposed because by nominating undeserving candidates including his own nephew, he had spoiled the career of meritorious students”.
The prosecutor also said Masood is a person who is a “lawmaker turned into a lawbreaker” even after taking oath to abide by the Constitution which says all are equal before the law.
“He 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,” the prosecutor said.
Former IPS officer Gurdial Singh’s counsel said he is a senior citizen who even after retirement is associated with several social organisations to serve the society.
Convict Amal Kumar Roy’s lawyer too sought leniency for his client, citing his old age and health problems.
CBI, however, said both Singh and Roy were “law protectors but both turned into lawbreakers”.
Counsel for the nine students said their career will be spoiled if harsh punishment is given to them and their only mistake was that they took admission through these means.
Masood has been held guilty on same counts in two other similar cases. The three cases in which the Congress leader has been convicted form part of eleven such cases registered by CBI in 1996.