Amar Singh, three BJP MPs discharged in cash-for-vote case

    By IANS,

    New Delhi: A Delhi court Friday discharged Rajya Sabha member and former Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Amar Singh and three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders involved in the cash-for-vote scam of 2008.

    The court held that three BJP MPs Faggan Singh Kulaste, Mahavir Bhagora and Ashok Argal had enacted a drama to expose horse-trading and leaders of the Congress and SP who were indulging in corrupt activity to lure vulnerable MPs of other parties.

    The court took into account that the efforts to trace the money trail had failed and the principal offenders who attempt to bribe BJP MPs could not be brought before the court.

    Special Judge Narottam Kaushal also discharged Sudheendra Kulkarni, close aide of BJP senior leader L.K. Advani, and BJP activist Sohail Hindustani.

    It said that the facts that have emerged from the record do not create sufficient grounds for proceedings against Amar Singh, Kulkarni, Hindustani, Kulaste, Bhagora and Argal.

    However, the court framed corruption charges against Sanjeev Saxena, Amar Singh’s former aide saying that sufficient ground for presuming that Saxena has committed offence under Prevention of Corruption Act.

    On July 22, 2008, BJP MPs Kulaste, Bhagora and Argal waved wads of currency notes in the Lok Sabha ahead of a trust vote, alleging they were given the money to vote in favour of the Manmohan Singh government.

    “The practice of laying trap to catch a bribe taker is nothing new. Only difference in this case is that trap was laid to catch the bribe giver and bribe takers were only decoys,” the court said.

    The court noted that inviting TV channels to film the incident cannot be stretched out as a wrong intention and and the MPs did not want to hide their activities.

    While releasing Amar Singh, the court observed that there was no stealth in his meeting with the three BJP MPs. Moreover no such statement of the three BJP MPs is on record of the judicial file.

    “(There is) No circumstantial evidence to hold that Sanjeev Saxena was employed with Amar Singh and money was sent to residence of Ashok Argal under his direction,” the court said, agreeing with defence lawyer N. Hariharan that circumstance of evidence must complete the chain and no link of chain should be missing.

    It was also held that the audio-video recording of this conversation is only at one end and it does not show the presence of Amar Singh.

    The court said that Kulkarni had not played any active role in the case. He has only introduced the TV channel team with three BJP MPs with a view to facilitate recording evidence of the horse trading on the eve of confidence motion.

    However, the court said that nevertheless the act of Saxena would be covered in the ambit of Section 12 Prevention of Corruption Act.

    “Since he caught on camera handling over the amount to three BJP MPs. There is no evidence of meeting of minds with any other persons,” the court said.

    In its first charge sheet filed in August 2011, the Delhi Police had accused Amar Singh and Kulkarni of conspiring and masterminding the cash-for-vote scam to bribe some MPs ahead of the confidence vote.

    The case was registered in 2009 on the recommendation of a parliamentary panel which had probed the scam.

    All the accused were booked under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and for criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.

    Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora had earlier claimed it was a sting operation to highlight horse trading in parliament, ahead of the trust vote.