New Delhi, Oct 1 (PTI): Congress leader Rasheed Masood, a Rajya Sabha member, was on Tuesday sentenced to four years in jail by a Delhi court in a corruption case, becoming the first member of Parliament to lose his seat after a July 10 Supreme Court judgment had removed the immunity for convicted lawmakers.
Masood, 67, was immediately taken into custody by the court.
Special Central Bureau of Investigation Judge J P S 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 judgment that struck down a provision in the Representation of the People Act that allowed incumbent MPs and MLAs to avoid disqualification by filing an appeal in a higher court.
On Monday, a court in Ranchi convicted Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Janata Dal (United) leader Jagadish Sharma, both Lok Sabha members, in the 1996 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 Indian Police Service officer, and retired Indian Administrative Service officer Amal Kumar Roy, who was 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 1 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 a higher 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.
Majumdar, then Tripura’s Chief Minister, and his health Minister, Kashi Ram Reang, were also accused in the case. They passed away during 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.
The CBI, however, said both Singh and Roy were “law protectors but both turned into lawbreakers”.
Counsel for the nine students said their careers would 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.