Former Telecom Minister Sukhram slapped, kicked by man in court premises

Former Telecom Minister Sukhram slapped, kicked by man in court premises
Delhi:  Former Telecom Minister Sukhram was today slapped and kicked by a man inside the premises of a Delhi court just moments after he was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in connection with a corruption case dating back to 1996.

The assailant, identified as Harvinder Singh, was immediately nabbed and whisked away by the police. He had been thrown out of the court earlier in the day after he misbehaved with the former minister and complained about the court order taking so long.

Sukhram has been convicted yesterday by the court for taking Rs. 3 lakh as bribe to give a lucrative contract to a private firm in 1996. Apart from the five-year jail term, he will also have to pay a fine of Rs. 4 lakh.

The former Telecom Minister had earlier pleaded for leniency in the court on grounds of his old age, while the CBI called him a "habitual offender" and sought maximum punishment for him.

Sukhram, 86, had been held guilty for misusing his official position during his tenure as Telecom Minister in P V Narasimha Rao's Cabinet in giving a contract worth Rs 30 crore to private firm Haryana Telecom Limited (HTL) to supply 3.5 Lakh Conductor Kilometers (LCKM) of Polythene Insulated Jelly Filled (PIJF) cables to the telecom department.

Reacting to the Sukhram verdict, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said, "The way in which the court has taken the time to punish the guilty is important. The judicial system needs changes otherwise people will lose faith.''      

Sukhram was charged on Thursday under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code. These offences under which he has been convicted usually entail a maximum sentence of a seven-year jail term.

Appearing for Sukhram, his counsel had pleaded to Special Judge R C Pandey, "I (Sukhram) am an 86-year-old person and attending the trial for past 12 to 13 years. I suffer from old age-related ailments and have lost my wife. Therefore, a lenient view may be taken."

He also submitted that "age is a good consideration for leniency".

He said that "as such it is not a case where government has lost any money. The CBI allegation was that he (Sukhram) took a bribe but no financial loss has been caused to the government exchequer."

Responding to this, the CBI prosecutor  had argued that Sukhram is a "habitual offender" as he has been sentenced in two other cases also and deserves no leniency.

On the age issue, the CBI counsel had said, "Age is always a consideration but the court should see the age of the accused at the time of committing the offence. But, at present every case is taking 10-15 years and the plea that I am an old person and, therefore, a lenient view should be taken, is not a correct proposition of law governing the sentence of the accused after he is convicted".

The CBI also said, "We should not forget that he was an MP and a minister and has betrayed the confidence of the public at large."

Rebutting Sukhram's argument that no financial loss was caused to the exchequer, the CBI said under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, dealing with the misconduct of a public servant, pecuniary advantage caused to an accused tantamount to causing corresponding loss to the exchequer.

The CBI, in its chargesheet filed in 1998, had accused Sukhram of showing undue favour in awarding the cable supply contract to HTL. Sukhram had been put on trial along with HTL
chairman Devinder Singh Choudhary who died during the trial.

In 2009, Sukhram had been held guilty of possessing disproportionate assets worth Rs 4.25 crore.

In 2002, he was awarded a three-year jail term under the Prevention of Corruption Act in a separate case relating to equipment supply for causing a loss of Rs 1.66 crore to the state exchequer. He had allegedly caused undue benefits to Rama Rao, managing director of Hyderabad-based Advance Radio Masts. He is currently out on bail.

A seven-time MLA and three-time MP, Sukhram was expelled from the Congress even though his son Anil Sharma was a minister in the V B Singh government in Himachal Pradesh.

In 1997, he had floated Himachal Vikas Congress. He was inducted in the cabinet of BJP-HVC government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal on March 24, 1998, but had to resign when charges were framed against him in corruption cases.

(With PTI inputs)

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