Judge blasts Rao, finds 'substantial evidence' in MPs's bribery case
In a judgment fraught with legal and constitutional issues of great importance, the Delhi high court on Friday upheld the trial court's decision to frame charges against former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, four former Union ministers and 13 others in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs bribery case.
Delivering the 114-page ruling in a jam-packed court room
on Thursday, Justice Jaspal Singh said, ''It is no job of a prime minister to hatch or be a party to such a criminal conspiracy. Power intoxicates the best hearts as wine the strongest heads, but then nobody can thrive on corruption.... A prime minister must not sustain his power and position on the crutches of corruption.''
The judge held that the Central Bureau of Investigation had substantial evidence against the accused. He dismissed their criminal revision petitions against Special Judge Ajit Bharihoke's decision to chargesheet them under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (Criminal Conspiracy) and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The high court directed all the accused to appear before the trial court on September 19, when the case is slated to come up next.
The judge, however, criticised the CBI for its laxity in the court proceedings of the case involving a former prime minister, four former Union ministers -- Captain Satish Sharma, Ram Lakhan
Singh Yadav, Ajit Singh and Buta Singh, former chief ministers Bhajan Lal, M Veerappa Moily, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leaders Suraj Mandal, Simon Marandi and Shibu Soren, Congress leaders A Charan Das and Raja Abhay Pratap Singh and Janata Dal leader Ram Sharan Yadav.
''While a long line of senior and seasoned advocates
representing the petitioners argued for days together, the CBI
prosecutor took a little over 90 minutes to conclude his
reply,'' the judge said. ''I must say that he did his best. But then, in a case of corruption and bribery like this, could not the CBI engage a lawyer to meet the legal challenge thrown by some of the best legal brains and to be of some assistance to the court? But then, who dare investigate the investigator?''
The trial court had framed charges against 20 accused, but former member of Parliament Roshan Lal and former Karnataka minister Ramalinga Reddy did not challenge the special judge's order.
Urging the high court to set aside the special judge's order, the petitioners said they were in no way involved in the case.
Justice Singh said that the CBI case against Rao was that he was prima facie involved in the conspiracy to bribe the JMM MPs's to save his government. ''It is unfortunate that Rao thinks he was justified under Article 75 (2) of the Constitution. The plea demeans the provision. He is looking out for something which is not there.''
Rao's senior counsel R K Anand had quoted Article 75 (2) to say that it was the prime minister's obligation and duty to save his government and whatever he did was guided by this article.
The judgment said, ''All ambitions, including the ambition to
remain perennially in power, are lawful except those which climb
upward by means unlawful.
''If the prosecution is to be believed, what Rao did, cannot,
to my mind, fall within the words 'while acting or purporting to
act in the discharge of his official duty.''
Regarding the role played by Captain Satish Sharma, the judgment
said, ''This, in short, is a story of how a captain with the help
of his crew saved the sinking ship of P V Narasimha Rao.''
The judgment also came down heavily on the petitioners's contention that the prosecution version was a ''cock and bull''.
''I see no 'cock' in the prosecution story. However, if the prosecution is to be believed, then, proverbially speaking, a 'bull' of course was there. A bull in the Opposition's china shop, hitting at the no-confidence motion with the aid of money bags and promises galore,'' Justice Singh observed.
The JMM MPs, the judge said, found in the no-confidence motion a
great opportunity to make ''a quick buck''. ''They contacted Captain Satish Sharma and secured promises from him. Then they approached V Rajeshwara Rao, Buta Singh and finally Narasimha Rao.
As for Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav and other breakaway Janata Dal (Ajit) members -- Ram Sharan Yadav, Anadi Charan Das and Abhay Pratap Singh -- the very foundation of that group was allegedly laid with greed, the judgment said.
Finding that Ajit Singh was not willing to share what he had
allegedly received from Bhajan Lal for his support to Rao, Yadav lost no time in breaking away from his political mentor, it said.
''Bhajan Lal and Captain Satish Sharma were already prowling for
a kill and so was Narasimha Rao. Assurances were made and later
honoured though only with regard to cash payments,'' the judge
The judge said Bhajan Lal's alleged role in making the payments to secure ''votes'' is clear and unambiguous and speaks for itself.
Regarding Ajit Singh, the judge said that Captain Dilawar Singh's statement was enough to invite an order of framing of charge.
The role assigned to Buta Singh reminded the judge, of a sprint. "Quick
in finish but full of bursting energy."
As for the contention that MPs cannot be prosecuted for ''anything said'' during ''any proceeding'' in Parliament under Article 105 (2) of the Constitution, the court ruled that this does not give them the right to commit a crime as any such approach would start a thoroughly vicious and destructive process.
About the judgment itself, Justice Jaspal Singh said, ''I adopt
what was said long time back in Stockdale versus Hansard (Supra) case. If I am to pronounce a judgment at all in this or any other case,
it must and shall be the judgment of my own mind, applying the law
of the land as I understood it according to the best of my
abilities and with regard to the oath which I have taken to
administer justice truely and impartially.''
Rao has decided to move the Supreme Court against the verdict. He will request the apex court to entrust the case to a Constitution bench.
Framing of charges against Rao adjourned
Pay no attention to JMM leader's statement: Rao
Court frames charges against Rao, 19 others in JMM MPs bribery case