JBT teachers scam: HC asks Delhi govt to respond to Chautala's plea for early release

New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has asked the AAP government to respond to a plea by former Haryana chief minister O P Chautala claiming that his prayer for early release from jail in a teachers' recruitment scam has not been considered by the authorities despite judicial order.

Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar asked the Delhi government to file its response on the plea and listed the matter for further hearing on February 28.

The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief, who is 84 and lodged in Tihar jail to serve 10-year jail term in the JBT scam, has been seeking special remission on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi as notified by the central government.

The high court on December 18, 2019 asked the Delhi government to consider afresh Chautala's plea for early release from jail. It had set aside the state's April 3, 2019 order of rejecting his plea.

Advocate Amit Sahni, appearing for Chautala, argued that despite the December 18 directions of the court, the Delhi government has not decided the case for special remission and the state cannot prolong it indefinitely.

He said the government has not been complied the court's order even after 40 days and sought direction to the authorities to do so.

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra submitted that in view of upcoming elections in the capital, the model code of conduct is in force and the state level committee would examine Chautala's case after the new government is formed.

In the December order, the court said that in view of mandate of law and the fact that he was aged and has completed 50 per cent of his actual sentence period, the court was of the opinion that he was eligible to have his case considered by the State Committee for special remission in terms of the guidelines prescribed under the Notification.

The court had made it clear that it had not expressed any opinion on the entitlement of Chautala for early release.

His plea was earlier opposed by the Delhi government, which had said Chautala 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.

Chautala had 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.

The petition had 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-thirds 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 anti-corruption 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 had 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.

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, a 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. PTI SKV HMP SA TIR TIR