New Delhi: Dushyant Chautala led his party Jannayak Janta Party to an emphatic take-off in the very first assembly elections it fought in Haryana.
Under him, JJP actively campaigned against the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party government to corner substantial enough votes to win 10 seats. It finished third in the state even as its parent party Indian National Lok Dal managed to win only a single seat.
However, Dushyant’s decision to join the BJP-led government as the deputy chief minister has naturally courted controversy, given that both he and his mother Naina Chautala had promised at rallies that their party would never support BJP in case of a hung assembly scenario.
Immediately after the BJP-JJP alliance was announced, Dushyant’s father Ajay Chautala, who is serving a 10-year sentence at Tihar jail in the teacher-recruitment corruption scandal, was released on furlough for two weeks. This further fuelled speculation that the alliance and Ajay’s furlough was a part of quid pro quo arrangement.
Nevertheless, as the JJP continues to face a backlash, the teacher-recruitment scandal which did the Chautalas in and hit them hard when their political fortunes had appeared to be soaring is back in the news.
What is the JBT scam?
In January, 2013, former Haryana chief minister and INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala, his son and Dushyant’s father Ajay, and three other officials, including the whistleblower in the case, were given 10 years of jail by a special CBI court for illegally recruiting over 3,000 teachers in the year 1999-2000. It was proven that the junior basic trained (JBT) teachers were hired with the help of forged documents.
The scam came to light when former director of primary education Sanjeev Kumar filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court saying that the Chautala government had taken bribes to recruit 3,208 JBT teachers. Kumar, a 1989-batch IAS officer, had alleged that then chief minister Chautala, who was also handling the education ministry then, had forced him to change the original list of 2,000 selected candidates.
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Chautala, in turn, went on to allege that Kumar himself had changed the original list.
Amidst the accusations and counter-accusations, the Supreme Court handed the case over to the CBI, which carried on investigations for the next four years. The probe agency concluded that each recruited candidate had paid Rs three to four lakh illegally to the Chautala government, and that Chautala had given written instructions to Kumar that the original list was to be replaced with a new one that comprised all those who had paid the bribe.
The CBI, in June, 2008, filed its chargesheet against the Chautalas, a few INLD leaders, and others in the case.
The CBI said that it followed up on the case by speaking to various officials in the selection committees in as many as 18 districts of Haryana and established how second lists were made. It also said that modalities of the new list was worked out in New Delhi’s Haryana Bhawan and a guest house in Chandigarh.
Moreover, it said that both Om Prakash and Ajay used “forged documents” to make appointments.
As many as 62 people were accused initially for the illegal recruitment of 3,206 junior teachers. Six died during the course of the trial. One was discharged by the court while the remaining 55, including 16 women, were convicted by the court.
Apart from the Chautalas, Sanjiv Kumar, who exposed the scandal, Chautala’s former Officer on Special Duty Vidya Dhar and political advisor to the chief minister Sher Singh Badshami, were also convicted for corruption.
The high court in March, 2015, upheld the lower court’s verdict convicting the Chautalas. It said that there was “overwhelming evidence” to show “the spine-chilling state of affairs in the country.”
In August 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed their appeals against the high court’s decision.
Why is the case getting attention now?
The case is back in the news for political reasons. The opposition parties have indicated that the reason JJP extended its support to the BJP, which was six short of a majority in the 90-member Haryana assembly, could be because he wanted some relief for his father.
Only in August, Om Prakash Chautala, Dushyant’s grandfather, was granted parole to observe his wife’s last rites. His parole was also extended by four weeks. Before that he was granted parole at least thrice, including once in July, 2019 when he sought relief from his imprisonment to attend the engagement ceremony of his grandson. He had earlier got relief to write his Class 12 examination, which he passed.
Indian Express reported that Ajay, too, had sought furlough (another relief measure for prisoners sanctioned in the Prisons Act) multiple times.
He had applied for furlough around 10 days ago but since his relief came hours after the BJP-JJP alliance was announced, it was alleged to be a part of political dealmaking. Ajay was earlier given permission to write an examination in June this year.
Before that, he was granted a 21-day parole in April, 2019. During this time, he campaigned for his party extensively for the Lok Sabha elections and also played the most significant role in JJP entering an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party for the parliamentary polls.