HC Stays 4-Year Jail Term for Samata Party Ex-President Jaya Jaitly, 2 Others in Defence Scam

The three were held guilty of corruption and criminal conspiracy in the purported purchase of hand-held thermal imagers.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday stayed the 4-year jail term awarded to ex-Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly in a corruption case related to a purported defence deal, her lawyer said.

A Delhi court on Thursday awarded a four-year jail term to Samata Party’s ex-president, Jaya Jaitly, and two others for corruption in a 2000-2001 case related to a purported defence deal, a lawyer said.

Special CBI judge Virender Bhat awarded a four-year jail term to Jaitly’s former party colleague Gopal Pacherwal and retired Major General S.P. Murgai in the case, Murgai’s advocate Vikram Panwar said.

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait also sought the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) response on Jaitly’s appeal challenging her conviction and sentence, advocate Abhijat said.

Jaitly, represented through senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and P.P. Malhotra, challenged the July 21 order of the trial court convicting her in the case.

The court, in an in-camera proceeding, also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on all three convicts and directed them to surrender before it till 5 pm on Thursday itself.

The three were held guilty of corruption and criminal conspiracy in the purported purchase of hand-held thermal imagers.

The case stemmed from ‘Operation West End’ – a sting operation aired by news portal Tehelka in January 2001.

While convicting the three accused, the court had held that the convicts, along with Surender Kumar Surekha (who later turned approver), were party to a criminal conspiracy that took place between December 2000 and January 2001 at Delhi.

The court observed that while Jaitly accepted illegal gratification of Rs 2 lakh from Mathew Samuel, a representative of fictional company West End International, Murgai received Rs 20,000.

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The illegal gratification was accepted for obtaining supply orders for handheld thermal imagers from the army.

All the three accused – Jaitly, Pacherwal and Murgai – were convicted of sections 120b (offence of conspiracy) and 9 (taking gratification for the exercise of personal influence with public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act of the Indian Penal Code.

The court held it is “proved beyond doubt that in the meeting in the hotel room on December 25, 2000, Surekha and Murgai assured their assistance to Samuel in procuring letter of evaluation for the product of his company from the Ministry of Defence and also to arrange a meeting between him and accused Jaya Jaitly who would provide political cover to them in this regard”.

It was agreed that Samuel would pay Rs 1 lakh each to Surekha and Murgai and Rs 2 lakh to Jaitly, the court noted.

“Thus, there had been an agreement between them to obtain the evaluation letter for the concerned product by illegal means i.e. by resort to corruption and personal influence upon the concerned officials,” it said. “Accordingly, Pacherwal arranged the said meeting for December 28, 2000. He too was present in the said meeting in the room of Jaitly along with Surekha, Samuel and Murgai”.

The court further said: “In that meeting, which took place in the official residence of the then Union minister for defence George Fernandes, Samuel was introduced to Jaitly as a businessman whose company intends to enter the market of defence procurement.”

“Samuel offered the sum of Rs 2 lakh to Jaitly who instructed him to hand over the money to Pacherwal and accordingly, the money was received by accused Pacherwal knowing that it was bribe money. In lieu thereof, Jaitly assured Samuel that in case the product of his company is not considered, she would intervene by making a request to ”Sahib” (purportedly Fernandes) to send a word to the concerned officer in this regard”.

The court said both the accused, Pacherwal and Jaitly, are also guilty of the offence of conspiracy.

“Jaitly received a sum of Rs 2 lakhs through Pacherwal from Samuel as a motive/reward for agreeing to accomplish the task given to her i.e. to exert personal influence upon the concerned ministers/officers in pushing the product of the company of Samuel into the Indian Army,” it said.

Similarly, Murgai received Rs 20,000 from Samuel on January 4, 2000, in lieu of the assistance rendered by him in arranging a meeting with Jaitly and securing a letter of evaluation for the product of the company of by exercise of personal influence upon the concerned officers, the court noted.

“Therefore, both of them have committed offence envisaged under Section 9 of the PC Act,” it said.