Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: A special CBI court on Tuesday sentenced Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood, held guilty in a case of corruption and other offences, to four years in jail.
With the sentence, Masood lost his Rajya Sabha seat as he became the first casualty of the Supreme Court judgement which said that a member of parliament and state legislatures stands disqualified immediately if convicted by a court for crimes with punishment of two years or more and under some other laws even without jail sentence.
Masood, who was immediately taken into custody after the sentencing, will also lose the right to contest polls for the next 10 years since a convicted leader cannot fight elections for six years from the date of release from their prison.
The arguments on sentencing had concluded at around 11:15 am today.
A Special CBI court had on September 19 held Masood guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool.
Earlier in the day, Masood had sought benefit of probation in the court, citing his long service to the nation and health reasons even as the CBI demanded nothing less than seven-year jail term for him and a hefty fine.
"I have been an MP for the last 30 years and I am a law-abiding citizen. Considering the nature of the case, my age and clean antecedents, I should be given the benefit of probation," counsel for 67-year-old Masood had told Special CBI Judge JPS Malik while arguing on the quantum of sentence.
CBI prosecutor VN Ojha had, however, opposed his plea for probation, saying, "Rasheed Masood does not deserve anything less than seven years (in jail) and a hefty fine should be imposed because by nominating undeserving candidates including his own nephew, he had spoiled the career of meritorious students".
The court after hearing the arguments had said that it will pronounce its order on sentence at 2.30 PM.
The prosecutor also said Masood is a person who is a "lawmaker turned into a lawbreaker" even after taking oath to abide by the Constitution which says all are equal before the law.
"He and the other two public servants convicted in the case should be given maximum punishment as the students who suffered nearly two decades ago cannot be compensated for," the prosecutor had said.
The two other public servants convicted in the case are Gurdial Singh, a former IPS officer, and retired IAS official Amal Kumar Roy, the then secretary of Tripura Chief Minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar.
Pleading for leniency, counsel for Masood, a Rajya Sabha member belonging to Congress party, had told the court that he is 67-year-old and is suffering from various ailments like heart disease, diabetes and has been advised to do less stressful activities.
"Whatever judgement the court has passed, we accept it. But my client (Masood) is continuously under medical treatment. He is a person who cannot live without treatment and this can only be managed by hospitals and he has to be stress-free."
"Besides being an MP, he has worked for increasing exports from India bringing in crores of rupees inflows. Considering all this, he should be released on probation," the counsel said.
The other convicts in the case have also been held guilty of similar offences.
Nine students who had fraudulently got admission in the medical colleges have also been convicted for cheating. Two of them, including Masood`s nephew, were juvenile at the time of the offence and their case had been transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board on January 25, 2007.
The then Chief Minister of Tripura Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar and then health minister of the state, Kashi Ram Reang were also accused in the case. They passed away during the pendency of the trial.
Former IPS officer Gurdial Singh`s counsel said he is a senior citizen who even after retirement is associated with several social organisations to serve the society.
Convict Amal Kumar Roy`s lawyer too sought leniency for his client, citing his old age and age-related health problems.
The CBI, however, said both Singh and Roy were "law protectors but both turned into lawbreakers".
Counsel for the nine students said their career will be spoiled, if harsh punishment is given to them and their only mistake was that they took admission through these means.
Masood was the minister of Health in the VP Singh government between 1990 and 1991.
Special CBI Judge JPS Malik had held Masood guilty of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery). He has, however, been acquitted of the charge under Section 471 IPC (using as genuine a forged document).
Masood`s conviction was the first case after the July 10 Supreme Court judgement that struck down sub-section 4 of Section 8 of Representation of the People Act, under which incumbent MPs and MLAs can avoid disqualification till pendency of the appeal against conviction in a higher court. The appeal has to be made within three months of the conviction.
Congress member in Rajya Sabha and a party Working Committee member, Masood, is all set to be disqualified under the provisions of RP Act that disqualifies anybody who has been convicted under sections of various laws including the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
(With PTI inputs)