Why preference to VIP cases, wonders Bench

The Supreme Court on Wednesday deprecated the practice of giving preference to VIPs and declined to interfere with an order of the Delhi High Court refusing to extend the former Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala’s interim bail on medical grounds in the “teachers appointment scam” case.

A Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and S.J. Mukhopadhaya, however, granted him time till September 23 to surrender before jail authorities.

Mr. Chautala was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment last January.

Justice Dattu told senior counsel Uday Lalit, appearing for Mr. Chautala, that “cases of known VIP convicts are given preference by the High Court over poor convicts. You [Mr. Chautala] were convicted in January but your appeal in the Delhi High Court is almost complete. Here in the Supreme Court, appeals filed in 2005 against death sentence are still in the queue and we are not able to take up these matters. Look at the tragedy of the system.”

The judge said: “The system encourages only known persons and they are at an advantageous position. This is the reason why a poor man feels that the system works only for known persons and unknown persons are ignored and they are at a disadvantage.

“The High Court has given special treatment to you. Are we justified in doing so because some big name appears?”

The High Court had suspended Mr. Chautala’s sentence considering his medical condition and he was admitted to hospital. It appointed a medical board from the AIIMS, which, after examining him, said he was fine and there was no need to keep him in hospital. The court then directed him to surrender by September 17. The present appeal is directed against this order.

Mr. Lalit told the Supreme Court that 78-year-old Mr. Chautala was suffering from various ailments and he needed constant medical attention with the help of an attendant.

Justice Dattu asked: “If you [Chautala] come back to power, will you say I don’t want power citing these ailments?”

Justice Mukhopadhaya told counsel, “These medical terms are high-sounding words. If we go by your reasoning, then only healthy people will be in jail.”

The Bench directed jail authorities to give proper, effective, efficient and expert medical assistance, if required by the petitioner.