Cash-for-query scam: Court gives last chance to ex-BJP MP to appear

Irked over the absence of a former BJP MP accused in the infamous 2005 cash-for-query scam, a Delhi court on Tuesday gave him the last opportunity to appear on the next date when charges will be framed against him and 10 other ex-parliamentarians.

New Delhi: Irked over the absence of a former BJP MP accused in the infamous 2005 cash-for-query scam, a Delhi court on Tuesday gave him the last opportunity to appear on the next date when charges will be framed against him and 10 other ex-parliamentarians.

Special Judge Poonam Chaudhry asked the counsel for 76- year-old YG Mahajan, a former MP from Jalgaon in Maharashtra, to make sure he is present on the next date, saying it was a "time-bound case" and repeated exemptions cannot be granted.

"Charges have to be framed in the case. I cannot keep granting exemptions and adjournments like this. It is a time- bound case. It was made clear on the last date of hearing also that all accused have to remain present for the framing of charge," the judge said.

The judge made the remark after Mahajan's counsel sought exemption for him on the ground that he was not medically fit to appear as he had recently undergone a spinal surgery.

While noting that all the other former MPs were present before it, the judge said, "You (Mahajan's counsel) should have brought him. These are old ailments."

The court fixed the matter for framing of charge on September 27.

Besides Mahajan, the 10 other former MPs accused in the case are Chhatarpal Singh Lodha (BJP), Anna Saheb M K Patil (BJP), Manoj Kumar (RJD), Chandra Pratap Singh (BJP), Ram Sewak Singh (Congress), Narender Kumar Kushwaha (BSP), Pradeep Gandhi (BJP), Suresh Chandel (BJP), Lal Chandra Kol (BSP) and Raja Rampal (BSP).

In December 2005, the Lok Sabha had expelled 10 members, while Lodha was removed from the Rajya Sabha after a sting operation on television showed them taking cash for putting up questions in Parliament.

The court had on August 10 ordered framing of graft and criminal conspiracy charges against the 11 former MPs who were charge-sheeted in the 2005 cash-for-query scam for allegedly taking money to raise questions in Parliament.

It had said the charges for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act were prima facie made out against these MPs and a private person.

The proceedings against one of the accused, Vijay Phogat, have been abated as he has died.

Besides these ex-Parliamentarians, two journalists of a web portal were also charge-sheeted for allegedly abetting the offence under the anti-graft law and were summoned by the trial court. But the proceedings against them were quashed by the Delhi High Court.

The Delhi Police had charge-sheeted these MPs. The prosecution, represented through Special Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava, had alleged that they had misused their office as they were caught on camera seeking money during a sting operation for asking questions in Parliament.

The sting operation against the then MPs was conducted by the two journalists. It was telecast on a private news channel on December 12, 2005 and came to be known as the cash-for-query scam. The prosecution had relied upon CDs/DVDs containing conversations among the accused and others.

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