Sukhram sentenced, slapped in Delhi court

Moments after the former telecom minister was sentenced to five years RI for 1996 corruption case, an assailant slapped and kicked him in the court premises

A Delhi court on Saturday sentenced former telecom minister Sukhram, 86, to five years rigorous imprisonment for misusing his official position when he was in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet by taking a bribe of Rs 3 lakh to give a lucrative contract to a private firm in 1996. He was charged under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which will run concurrently.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge RP Pandey sentenced Sukhram to five years rigorous imprisonment (RI) under section 7 of PC. Sukhram was further sentenced to undergo five years RI with a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh under sections 13 (1)(d) and section 13(2) of the act. He received a three-year term with a fine of Rs 1 lakh for offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

This is his third conviction on corruption charges. He was awarded a three-year jail term in 2002 relating to equipment supply that resulted in a loss of Rs 1.66 crore to the state exchequer. He was also convicted and sentenced to three years in jail in 2009 for possessing disproportionate assets worth Rs 4.25 crore.

Moments after he was sentenced, Sukhram, who was being taken to the Tihar Jail, was attacked by a man inside the Rohini court complex in New Delhi. The assailant, Harvinder Singh, slapped and kicked the octogenarian. He was detained by the police.

"The court cannot remain oblivious to the fact of shaken public confidence in the efficacy of law to deal with corruption, particularly when it is the question of tackling the corruption case of high ranking public servants such as ministers and therefore the court can not afford to be excessively lenient with such convicts," the judge observed.

Sukhram had been put on trial along with HTL chairman Devinder Singh Choudhary who died during the trial.
Sukhram's counsel pleaded that his client is an octogenarian and had been attending the trial for the past 13 years. He also sought leniency on the grounds that his client is suffering from age-related ailments. The CBI prosecutor, however, called Sukhram a habitual offender and thus deserved no leniency. "We should not forget that he was an MP and a minister and has betrayed the confidence of public at large," said the prosecutor. Sukhram said he will challenge his conviction in the Delhi High Court.

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