Sent to Tihar Jail pending sentencing on Jan. 22

The former Haryana Chief Minister and Indian National Lok Dal president, Om Prakash Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala and 53 others were convicted by a special CBI court here on Wednesday for illegal selection of over 3,000 junior basic trained (JBT) teachers by replacing the original selection list compiled from 18 districts with fake ones.

The recruitment was initiated in 1999 to solve the acute shortage of teachers in Haryana and 3,206 vacancies were advertised in 18 districts. The accused persons, including 16 women, were arrested and sent to Tihar Central Jail to await the order on quantum of sentence which would be pronounced on January 22.

The lid was blown off the scam when Sanjiv Kumar, who was the Director of Primary Education (DPE), when the award lists were swapped, approached the Supreme Court in 2003 with a writ petition alleging that he was pressured by Mr. O.P. Chautala to replace the original lists with fake ones.

Mr. Kumar also submitted in the court 15 award lists which he said were fake and claimed that despite political pressure and alleged victimisation, he implemented the original list.

However, Mr. Kumar’s claim to be a whistleblower was exposed by the CBI which found that he was also complicit in the conspiracy to swap the award lists and that the 15 he had submitted in the Supreme Court were actually part of the original lists and not the fake ones.

The CBI realised that two DPEs, who occupied the post before Mr. Kumar, were eased out in quick succession because they refused to cooperate with Mr. O.P. Chautala. The prosecution also told the court that Mr. Kumar had secretly replaced the original lists — kept sealed in an almirah by his predecessor — and then replaced them with the fake ones. The agency said Mr. Kumar then undertook a “de-sealing drama” to demonstrate that the original lists were being taken out of the almirah.

Terming Mr. O.P. Chautala as the “main conspirator,” Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar convicted all the accused persons of criminal conspiracy, criminal misconduct by public servant, abuse of official position, forgery, and cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest the offenders were bound to protect.

Among the 55 accused in the Haryana teachers’ recruitment scam, a majority were district-level functionaries of the selection committees that prepared the fake lists of teachers.

Though the lawyers of the former Haryana Chief Minister, O.P. Chautala, claimed that he was unaware of the scheme and that the CBI investigation was motivated by the Congress party, the Special Judge noted that “profuse evidence was available on record to show that Mr. Chautala was managing the whole affair.”

The court noted that he took the JBT vacancies out of the purview of the Staff Selection Commission and handed it to the DPE, and that two honest IAS officers who did not cooperate – R.P. Chander and Rajni Shekri Sibal – were transferred out. It also said that evidence was there on record that Mr. Chautala’s son Ajay, his political adviser, Sher Singh Badshami, and his OSD Vidya Dhar were present in a meeting where Ms. Sibal was asked to change the lists. This, the judge said, “leaves me in no doubt that all of them were acting under the directions and wishes of O.P. Chautala, the then Chief Minister.”

The judge added: “This is a complete chain of circumstances which pin down accused O.P. Chautala as the main conspirator. I may point out that the notings file would show that almost at each and every stage, the note sheets have gone up to the Chief Minister for his approval. From this an inference can be drawn that Chautala was kept apprised of each and every development in these selections… Had these persons been acting without consent and without the blessings of Chautala those accused persons would have been circumspect and not have entered into such discussions in the presence of so many persons. This is another reason to believe the prosecution case that it was Chautala on whose behalf these persons were executing this scam.”

Chandigarh Special Correspondent reports:

Reacting to the conviction of his father and brother, Abhay Singh Chautala, legislator from Ellenabad hit out at the CBI, calling it a tool of the Congress being used to rein in those Opposition leaders raising a voice against the “shady activities of the Congress.”

In a statement, the junior Chautala said the Congress government was using the CBI to stifle the voices of Opposition leaders such as Mulayam Singh, Jayalalithaa, Chandrababu Naidu, Mayawati, and Lalu Prasad.

He said the party was fully with the convicted INLD leaders, adding that this ‘politically motivated’ conspiracy designed to divert the attention of the people from the ‘misgovernance and corruption’ of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana.