Telugu Desam Party legislator and former minister Nagam Janardhan Reddy was sentenced to six-months' imprisonment in a defamation case filed by Rural Development Minister G Chinna Reddy in Hyderabad on Tuesday. The court also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on him.
Mahbubnagar Judicial First Class Magistrate Krishnamoorthy, who pronounced the verdict in the case, however, suspended the sentence for one month to enable the TDP leader to file an appeal within 15 days in a higher court.
Chinna Reddy had accused Janardhan Reddy of damaging his reputation during a general body meeting of the Mahbubnagar zilla parishad on February 17, 2002. Janardhan Reddy was a minister in the TDP government at that time while Chinna Reddy was an MLA from the Congress.
Janardhan Reddy represents the Nagarkurnool constituency while Chinna Reddy represents the Wanaparthy assembly constituency in Mahbubnagar district.
During the meeting, the Congress members, including Chinna Reddy, leveled allegations against officials and Janardhan Reddy for the irregularities in the centrally-sponsored Food for Work programme. He alleged that the TDP minister was involved in the Food for Work scandal, in which rice meant for the poor was diverted to the black-market, to benefit the TDP cadres.
A visibly irked Janardhan Reddy charged Chinna Reddy with obtaining a 'bogus doctorate from a non-existent university' and dubbed him a 'cheat and racketeer.'
Hurt by the allegations made in the presence of other elected representatives and officials, Chinna Reddy filed a defamation case against Janardhan Reddy on April 2, 2002.
Chinna Reddy submitted original certificates of all his degrees to the court to prove his educational qualifications. A graduate and post-graduate in agricultural sciences, he had obtained his PhD on biometrics in plant breeding from University Pertanian in Malaysia in 1989.
In his affidavit, he claimed that the allegations made by Janardhan Reddy and widely publicised by the media had tarnished his image in the eyes of the public.
Congress MLA Jupally Krishna Rao and the then Zilla Parishad territorial constituency members Sekhar Reddy and Panduranga Reddy were witnesses to the allegations made by Janardhan Reddy.
Janardhan Reddy, who was present in the court on Tuesday, was granted bail on submission of two sureties of Rs 5,000 each. He said that he respected the court ruling but he would appeal against the judgment in the High Court. Chinna Reddy termed the judgement as a 'moral victory' that vindicated him.