Former Haryana Chief Minister O P Chautala, serving a 10-year jail term in the JBT teachers recruitment scam, told the Delhi High Court on Tuesday that he deserved to be released early under the Centre's policy of special remission as he has already spent seven years in prison.
The plea was opposed by the Delhi government which said the 84-year-old INLD chief was not eligible for the relief as he was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act and as per the proviso of the government notification, such convicts cannot be granted special remission.
A bench of Justices Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, after hearing arguments of the counsel for Chautala and the Delhi government, reserved its order on the petition.
Chautala claimed in his plea that he should be considered for release from jail in view of his old age and disability as also the period of seven years already undergone by him behind bars.
His counsel argued that the maximum sentence prescribed under the PC Act at the time of Chautala's conviction in 2013 was seven years and therefore, the incarceration under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with PC Act, in this case, cannot exceed seven years.
The petition, filed through advocate Amit Sahni, referred to the central government's July 18, 2018, special remission notification by which the relief could be granted to certain categories of prisoners and they were to be released in three phases with effect from October last year.
As per the notification, the special remission has to be given to women and transgender convicts of 55 years of age who have completed 50 per cent of their actual jail term, male convicts of 60 years of age and who have completed half of their sentence period.
The relief has to be given to physically challenged/ disabled prisoners with 70 per cent disability and more and who have completed 50 per cent of their actual jail term and those who are terminally ill and the convicts who have completed two-third (66 per cent) of their jail term, it said.
However, the special remission was not to be given to those who have been convicted for heinous offences or under POTA, UAPA, TADA, POCSO Act, money laundering, FEMA, NDPS and PC Act.
"Considering the age, disability and period of incarceration, the case of Chautala falls under two clauses of the notification but since the authorities are biased towards him, his case is not considered in furtherance of the notification despite the fact that he has already undergone more than seven years of incarceration under the PC Act," the plea said.
Chautala, his son Ajay Chautala, and 53 others, including IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar, were convicted and sentenced in the case of illegal recruitment of 3,206 junior basic teachers (JBT) in 2000.
They all were sentenced to varying jail terms in the case by a special CBI court in January 2013.
Kumar, the then Director of Primary Education in Haryana, had initially exposed the scam after he filed a plea in the Supreme Court. Later, he was also found to be involved in the scam during a CBI probe.
Apart from the Chautalas and Kumar, Chautala's former Officer on Special Duty Vidya Dhar and political advisor to the then Haryana CM Sher Singh Badshami were also given 10-year jail terms.
The others who were given 10-year jail terms are Madan Lal Kalra, Durga Dutt Pradhan, Bani Singh, Ram Singh and Daya Saini.
Apart from them, one convict was handed a five-year jail sentence and the rest 44 were given four years of imprisonment.
Among the 55 convicts, 16 were women officials.