A Special CBI Court here on Friday convicted the former BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, of the charge of accepting money, to facilitate government contracts, from Tehelka journalists, who, posing as arms dealers, filmed him in a sting operation in 2001.
In his 155-page judgment, Special Judge Kanwaljeet Arora held Mr. Laxman guilty under Section 9 (taking gratification for exercise of personal influence with public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and directed that he be taken into judicial custody immediately.
Mr. Laxman will be produced in court on Saturday morning, when arguments on the quantum of sentence are heard. Section 9 provides for a minimum of six months and a maximum of five years in prison.
When counsel for Mr. Laxman pleaded that he be released on bail, Mr. Arora pointed out that the convict's bail bond was valid only till the conclusion of the trial.
The CBI had established the necessary ingredients of offence under Section 9, Mr. Arora said. On January 5, 2001, Bangaru Laxman “had accepted illegal gratification of Rs.1 lakh from Mathew Samuel, [who posed] as the chief liaison officer of M/S Westend International, and has further agreed to accept the balance amount (Rs.4 lakh) of illegal gratification in dollars as a motive or reward for exercise of personal influence on the public servants working with the Ministry of Defence,” the judge said.
Mr. Laxman, who was made to stand in the dock while the judge pronounced the verdict, appeared shell-shocked. He spent a few minutes in the courtroom with his lawyers and supporters, before the police led him away to the court lock-up.
The court earlier dismissed Mr. Laxman's plea to make Tehelka an accused, observing that the journalists had “acted as whistle-blowers,” though the method they had adopted was “objectionable.” Laxman also accused the Congress of registering a “false case” against him. The FIR was filed in 2006.
“It was accused Bangaru Laxman, who, as president of the BJP, despite being not related to the process of procurement or evaluation of any such product for [the] Indian Army, did entertain the representatives of Westend International with the belief that theirs is an actual company dealing in HHTIs [hand-held thermal imagers], assured them that he will find out what [the] Defence Secretary thinks and thereafter told them that message has been passed and accepted [the] gratification,” the court said.