Former Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, L K Advani's former aide Sudheendra Kulkarni and two Bharatiya Janata Party Members of Parliament along with two others on Friday got a huge relief, with a Delhi court discharging them in the 2008 cash-for-vote case.
Besides Amar Singh and Kulkarni, Special Judge Narottam Kaushal discharged BJP MPs Ashok Argal and Faggan Singh Kulaste, former BJP MP Mahabir Singh Bhagora and BJP activist Sohail Hindustani of the charges of criminal conspiracy and the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The court ordered framing of charges against Amar Singh's former aide Sanjeev Saxena under the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly abetting the crime.
The Delhi police, in its first charge-sheet filed in August 2011, had accused Amar Singh and Kulkarni of "conspiring" and "masterminding" the cash-for-vote scam to bribe some MPs ahead of a confidence vote in Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008.
Regarding Amar Singh, the court said the circumstances against him do not go beyond the "realm of suspicion".
On Kurkarni's role, the court said his part was only of introducing the TV channel's team to Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora, with the view to recording evidence of horse-trading.
It also said Kulkarni had no role in the latter part of the event, there was no direct evidence and no meeting of minds for committing illegal acts with illegal means.
On BJP leaders Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora, the court said by their act of inviting the TV channel and appearing before the cameras, it cannot be stated that they were indulging in any illegal activity. The court also rejected the prosecution's argument that their act of exposing horse-trading in Parliament was a drama.
There was also no evidence to show commission of any illegal act by Sohail Hindustani, the judge said. Earlier, during the arguments on framing of charges, Amar Singh had sought discharge from the case, saying there was no evidence to show that he had induced the BJP MPs to cross-vote in the trust vote in Lok Sabha in 2008 in return for money.
The case was registered in 2009 on the recommendation by a parliamentary panel which had probed the scam. The seven persons were booked under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and for criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.
The police had earlier rejected the claim of the accused -- that it was a whistle-blowing operation or a sting -- and said that this plea was not even accepted by the Parliamentary inquiry committee.
Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora had claimed it was a sting operation to highlight horse-trading in Parliament ahead of the July 22, 2008 trust vote.
Earlier, Samajwadi Party MP Rewati Raman Singh was also made an accused in the case by the trial court, which had said there was sufficient material to show that he was part of the alleged criminal conspiracy.
The Delhi high court had, however, quashed the trial court's order making Singh an accused in the case. The order of the high court had come on Singh's petition challenging the special court's order making him an accused in the case and issuing summons against him despite being given a clean chit by the Crime Branch of the Delhi police.
Image: Sudheendra Kulkarni