Saturday, March 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rao, Buta acquitted in JMM case
Tribune News Service & PTI

Former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao being offered sweet
Former Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao being offered sweet by his counsel R. K. Anand at his residence in New Delhi on Friday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, March 15
In a significant development, former Prime Minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao and former Union Minister, Buta Singh were today acquitted by the Delhi High Court in the JMM MPs bribery case as it found no evidence to show that they had discussed paying money to the MPs in a closed-door meeting in 1993.

“In the case, the material particulars is the ‘closed-door meeting’ for which the only additional evidence is the money lying in the bank, which has not been connected with the appellants,” Justice R .S. Sodhi said in his 95-page judgement.

Delivering his judgement in a packed courtroom, the judge said the statement of accused-turned-approver Shailendra Mahato, JMM MP, was “unreliable’’ and not corroborated by any other independent source.

Both Rao and Buta Singh were not present in the court when the judgement was pronounced.

This is the second case in which Rao has been acquitted after the St Kitts forgery case about five years ago. Rao still stands as an accused in the Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case.

Allowing their appeals against the September 29, 2000, judgement of a Special Judge sentencing them to three years’ rigorous imprisonment, the high court said the link between the bribery and the money deposited in the bank by four JMM MPs, “has been disbelieved by the trial court and there is no appeal against this finding.”

Rejecting the reliability of former JMM MP Shailendra Mahato’s confessional statement after becoming an approver that Rao, Buta Singh and his party colleague Suraj Mandal had discussed about the payment of money at the Prime Minister’s official residence on July 26, 1993, the court said “it was incumbent upon the prosecution to lead evidence to corroborate this incidence, which is woefully absent.”

Justice Sodhi said the law regarding appreciation of evidence of an approver was quite clear. “Firstly, he must be a reliable witness and, if found to be reliable, his statement must be corroborated by an independent witness in material particulars,’’ the judge said.

“It is the law of evidence that the story of a person, especially of the approver, must be consistent and logical. Therefore, omissions and contradictions cannot be overlooked.’’ Mahato’s testimony stood impeached and discredited, as there were material contradictions, improvements and omissions in his statements, he said.

The relief to the 81-year-old former Prime Minister came 18 months after the trial court convicted him and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.

Prime Minister for five years between 1991 and 1996, Rao, the first from the Congress to get to the country’s top political post outside the Nehru-Gandhi family, was accused of bribing the JMM MPs in return for their support against the no confidence motion brought against his minority government in 1993.

The court also rejected the revision petition by the Rashtriya Mukti Morcha (RMM), the main complainant in the case, challenging acquittal of nine other accused in the case.

The court said there was no merit in the petition in the absence of any evidence against the persons acquitted.

In its September 29, 2000, judgement the trial court had acquitted Union Minister Ajit Singh, former Union Minister Satish Sharma, former Haryana and Karnataka Chief Ministers Bhajan Lal and Veerappa Moily, two former Karnataka ministers Rama Linga Reddy and M. Thime Gowda, former MP V. Rajeshwar Rao and two Bangalore-based liquor barons.Back


Arrest warrant against Pbi varsity VC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 15
A Patiala court today issued arrest warrants against the Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, in a case involving the complaint filed by a girl student, Saru Rana, nearly a fortnight back.

According to sources, the arrest warrants were issued under Sections 376 and 511 of the IPC.

The girl student had first submitted a complaint a month ago, in which she had complained that she was being mentally harassed and disclosed that girl students of the Department of Fine Arts were made to do unbecoming things during visits outside the varsity. Saru had then approached the press, complaining that she was convinced that the harassment being meted out to girl students was being done at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor.

Following this, she got an FIR registered against the Vice-Chancellor, in which she alleged that he had made a lewd gesture at her.

Sources said following this, other leads had been investigated, which resulted in the arrest warrants being issued today.Back

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