Om Prakash Chautala: Rise, fall, rise and downfall

National
Charges petty and serious, terms short and full

His crime record shows him as having allegedly smuggled watches as a young man, having been indicted as an accessory to murder, and now as being convicted for corruption. His political career has seen him as Haryana chief minister for varying periods, ranging from a low of five days to a full term of five years, with a five-month debut between the extremes.

Om Prakash Chautala, Indian National Lok Dal chief and once Haryana strongman, has been convicted along with his elder son Ajay for the manner his government had appointed 3,206 teachers. The sentences are likely to be pronounced on Tuesday.

When he was allegedly caught smuggling watches at Delhi airport, he was disowned by his father Devi Lal. But when Devi Lal went to Delhi as deputy prime minister in the Janata Dal government, it was his son who inherited the chief minister's chair on December 2, 1989. Needing to win an election, he ended up contesting three. Two of these were in Meham, dominated by his community of Jats. The first byelection there was countermanded following allegations of booth capturing by the Chautalas. The second one was again countermanded, now because of the death of Independent candidate Amir Singh. Chautala was simultaneously contesting Darba Kalan in his home district, which did elect him.

In 1996, the Justice K N Saikia Commission indicted Chautala as an accessory to the killing of Amir Singh. Because of the shadow cast by the killing, his party was forced to bring in another chief minister, Banarsi Das Gupta, ending Chautala's five-month term. Gupta himself survived only two-and-a-half months, with Chautala snatching back the crown on July 2, 1990. But pressure from the party forced Chautala to quit again five days later.

Eight months later, new chief minister Hukum Singh had to make way for Chautala again. This time, Chautala lasted from March 2 to April 6, 1991, before rebellion toppled him and sent the state under President's rule.

Chauatala wouldn't come back to power for the next eight years. He did so in 1999 by toppling the Bansi Lal government, having got the BJP behind him. It began the first time he would complete a term. He took his party to elections in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh and Delhi, only to get a drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. In fact, the party hasn't won a Lok Sabha seat even in Haryana for the last two elections.

The year that term began was also the year of the teachers' recruitment scam, Chautala's eventual undoing.

With Chautala and his sons Ajay and Abhay acquiring an image of being arrogant and losing connect with supporters, the party lost heavily to the Congress in the assembly polls. It re-emerged stronger in 2009, restricting the Congress tally and forcing Bhupinder Singh Hooda to take the support of Independents before he could form a government. But the foundation for Chautala's downfall had been laid during Hooda's first term.

A chargesheet prepared by a group of Congress leaders had listed assets disproportionate to Chautala's known sources of income, backing these with pictures of his bungalows and farmhouses. It was given to the CBI that is currently probing a case of disproportionate wealth. It pegs the family's combined income at Rs 1,467 crore. The CBI's own chargesheet lists 80 properties owned by the Chautalas across the country, and the Congress alleges these were procured in the period 1993-2006.

Other than the JBT scam, Chautala has been named in a case of dubious selections in the Haryana Civil Services too. The CBI has recommended registration of cases against Chautala and several former officers for recommending ineligible officials. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court.

The JBT scam has come at a time when the Chautalas were eyeing a return to power in the 2014 elections. Their party, which won 31 seats in 2009, has been holding hugely attended rallies and the conviction comes amid hopes of consolidation. If Chautala and Ajay are sentenced for more than two years, they cannot even contest.

Not named in FIR, but that didn't help

When the special CBI court included the name of O P Chautala among those to be tried in the JBT teachers recruitment scam, the former Haryana CM made a futile bid to argue that he could not be tried because he had not been named as an accused in the FIR.

IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar, another convict, too had sought to gain from the fact that he was the whistleblower in the case. The 1985-batch IAS officer was the complainant and his name, therefore, could not have been in the FIR.

Also, both Chautala and Kumar had accused the CBI of bias during the trial. But it failed to convince the court, which trashed the argument that Chautala could not be listed as an accused as his name did not figure in the FIR because the preliminary enquiry had not found anything against him.

The judgment declared the probe had been fair and without bias. It mentioned that barring Chautala, his son Ajay, Sher Singh Badghami, Vidya Dhar and Sanjiv Kumar, all the other accused alleged that they had fully cooperated with the investigating officer who they claimed had assured them that they would be made witnesses in the case.

They said they had been prosecuted despite informing the investigating officer about the pressure exerted on them during the recruitment. It did not cut much ice with the court. "My attention has been drawn to the testimonies of PW16, PW23 and PW26 which show that CBI had shown their statements u/s 161 CrPC before they entered the witness box. I disagree with this submission because truthfulness of these witnesses has purged this defect," the judge said.

"It is, therefore, argued that the accused persons in this case have been prejudiced in their defence even during the trial. I disagree with these submissions. The FIR is not an evidence; rather, it is a starting point of the investigation. It appears (the) name of Chautala was not written in the FIR because he was a respectable political leader holding the highest post in the state of Haryana and it appears that at that stage the story of Sanjiv Kumar about the involvement of (the) chief minister in the scam might have been taken by the CBI with a pinch of salt," he said.

"However, further investigation revealed the involvement of Chautala to be true. Similarly, Sanjiv Kumar was petitioner in his writ and has presented himself to be a victim and had called himself a whistleblower," the judgment said, adding that this appears to be the reason for him not being named as an accused.

The judge also showed some leniency towards the CBI as the probe was launched three years after the scam, which he said could result in "limitations". "However... I would say the investigation was fair and there is nothing on record that it was biased...for any reasons including the political one," he said.

SCAM TO SENTENCE

Nov 1999: Posts of 3,206 junior basic trained teachers advertised by

OP Chautala govt

April 2000: Rajni Sekhri Sibal appointed director, primary education

July 2000: Sanjiv Kumar made director, allegedly on understanding (CBI chargesheet) that he would do the bidding of the Chautalas in the appointments

June 2003: Sanjiv Kumar moves Supreme Court alleging corruption in appointments; he has apparently fallen apart with the Chautalas

November 2003: CBI probe ordered

December 2003: CBI preliminary inquiry

May 2004: CBI opens case against Chautala, son Ajay, govt officials Vidya Dhar, Sher Singh Barshami, others

February 2005: CBI books Sanjiv Kumar in disproportionate assets case, puts him under scanner in JBT scam

May 2008: CBI concludes appointments were made on basis of a fraudulently prepared second set of interview scores

June 2008: CBI charge-sheet in special court

July 2011: Charges framed against 61 accused, a 62nd is discharged

January 2013: Chautala, Ajay, Dhar, Badshami and 51 others convicted by Delhi CBI court; other six have died

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on indianexpress.com are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, indianexpress.com reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.