Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood, convicted for fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats in 1990-91, on Tuesday sought benefit of probation in a Delhi court, citing his long service to the nation and health reasons even as the Central Bureau of Investigation demanded nothing less than seven years jail term for him and a hefty fine.
"I have been an MP for the last 30 years and I am a law abiding citizen. Considering the nature of the case, my age and clean antecedents, I should be given the benefit of probation," counsel for 67-year-old Masood told Special CBI Judge J P S Malik while arguing on the quantum of sentence.
CBI prosecutor V N Ojha, however, 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 court after hearing the arguments said it will pronounce its order on sentence at 2.30 pm. Masood, minister of health in the VP Singh government between 1990 and 1991, was held guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool.
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.
The two other public servants convicted in the case are Gurdial Singh, a former Indian Police Service officer, and retired Indian Administrative Service 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).
Masood's conviction is the first case after the July 10 Supreme Court judgement that struck down sub-section 4 of Section 8 of Representation of People Act, under which incumbent MPs and MLAs could avoid disqualification till pendency of the appeal against conviction in a higher court.
Pleading for leniency, counsel for Masood, a Rajya Sabha member belonging to the Congress, told the court that he is 67-years-old and is suffering from various ailments like heart disease, diabetes and has been advised to do less stressful activities.
"Whatever judgment the court has passed, we accept it. But my client (Masood) is continuously under medical treatment. He is a person who cannot live without treatment and this can only be managed by hospitals and he has to be stress-free. "Besides being an MP, he has worked for increasing exports from India bringing in crores of rupees inflows. Considering all this, he should be released on probation," the counsel said.
The other convicts in the case have also been held guilty of similar offences.
Nine students who had fraudulently got admission in the medical colleges have also been 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 chief minister of Tripura Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar and then health minister of the state, Kashi Ram Reang were also accused in the case. They passed away during the pendency of the trial.
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 age-related 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 career will be spoiled, if harsh punishment is given to them and their only mistake was that they took admission through these means.
A Congress working committee member, Masood is all set to be disqualified under the provisions of RP Act since he has been convicted under sections of various laws including the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. 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 the eleven such cases registered by the CBI in 1996.