New Delhi, April 28: A court here on Saturday sentenced former BJP president Bangaru Laxman to four years in jail and also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him for taking a bribe of Rs 1 lakh in a fictitious arms deal case 11 years ago.
72-year-old Laxman, also a former Union minister, was yesterday convicted by the court of Additional Sessions Judge Kanwal Jeet Arora at Dwarka.
The court held Laxman guilty of taking the bribe from fake arms dealers to recommend to the Defence Ministry to award them a contract to supply thermal binoculars to the Army.
The court awarded him the prison term, rejecting his plea for leniency and ordered that he be taken in custody to serve the sentence.
"Balancing the twin interest of society and that of the convict, I am of the opinion that interest of justice would be met, if the convict is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a term of four years and to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh for the offence under Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act," the judge said.
Holding that "corruption is worse than prostitution" as it endangers the whole society, the judge turned down 72-year-old Laxman`s plea for leniency.
"It is often said that the accomplice of the crime of corruption is generally our own indifference. `Sab chalta hai` syndrome has led us to the present situation, where we are, where nothing moves without an illegal consideration. People are forced to pay for getting even the right things done at right time," he added.
Laxman’s counsel said they will appeal against the sentence in the High Court.
The Congress, meanwhile, reacted by saying it is the first time a national chief of a political party has been sentenced. Rashid Alvi said it was time for the BJP to sit back and introspect.
During arguments on quantum of punishment earlier in the day, the CBI had sought the maximum five years’ punishment for Laxman.
Citing various Supreme Court judgements on corruption, the prosecutor had said corruption is rampant and it has to be dealt severely.
"CBI has been able to prove the case against Bangaru so we want maximum punishment for him under Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act," the prosecutor said.
On being asked by the judge as to why he should be given a minimum punishment of six months, the politician had said he was not keeping well and has undergone bypass surgery twice.
"I have health problems as I have undergone bypass surgery twice and suffering from diabetes. I have never been involved in any such case before. So, I should be given the minimum sentence," Bangaru had pleaded.
The court had found Laxman guilty under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"I am of the considered opinion that CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) had been able to establish the necessary ingredients of offence under Section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against accused Bangaru Laxman beyond reasonable doubt," the judge had said yesterday.
"The accused Bangaru Laxman on January 5, 2001 had accepted illegal gratification of Rs 1 lakh from M/S Westend International and has further agreed to accept the balance amount of illegal gratification in dollars, as a motive or reward for exercise of personal influence on the public servants working with ministry of defence, to show favour for award of a supply order in favour of the above mentioned company of HHTIs (hand-held thermal imagers) to Indian Army," the court added.
The case dates to 2001, when newsportal tehelka.com carried out a sting operation that caught Laxman on camera receiving money from a journalist posing as an arms dealer. He later resigned as the BJP chief.
Tehelka had released CDs showing Laxman accepting money for awarding a contract to a fictitious Britain-based company M/s West End International, for the supply of the imagers to the Indian Army.
A Delhi court had in May 2011 framed corruption charges against Laxman. The CBI, in its chargesheet, said that Laxman accepted Rs 1 lakh from the representatives of the purported firm in 2001 at his office for pursuing their proposal to supply certain products to the Army.