Court gives 2-yr jail to ex-govt official in Shops allotment scam


New Delhi: Former Urban Development Minister Sheila Kaul's additional private secretary was today sentenced to two years imprisonment by a special court for his role in a scam relating to allotment of government shops here between 1991 and 1994.  While awarding jail term to 67-year-old Rajan S Lala in the 20-year old case, the court held that his job was to give advice to Kaul and not to extract unwarranted favours from her in conspiracy with her.

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"In this case, convict Lala was a constant companion of accused 1 (Shiela Kaul), who was UD Minister, being her additional private secretary. His job was to render able advice to her, not to extract unwarranted favours from her in conspiracy with her, flouting all the established norms/ rules," Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal said. 

The court, which imposed a fine of Rs 75,000 on Lala, also granted him bail on furnishing of personal bond of Rs 50,000 to enable him file an appeal against the verdict.  The former government officer was held guilty for offences of criminal conspiracy under IPC and criminal misconduct under Prevention of Corruption Act. 

The court has held that there was a "clear cut conspiracy" between Lala and Kaul, her then additional private secretary D D Arora and assistant private secretary S L Yadav. Kaul, Arora and Yadav have died and the proceedings against them abated. The court, in its order on sentence, observed "let this be not forgotten that we people of India are the Government.

The ultimate rulers in democracy are not Parliamentarians or Ministers or government servants, but the people of this country, who have right to demand a just government which nourishes them with love and affection of a mother…" 

Lala sought leniency in sentencing on the ground that he was suffering from various ailments and required constant monitoring of vital parameters.  CBI, however, said deterrent punishment be awarded to the convict so that a strong message should go to the society that those in high places should exercise their power in a reasonable manner. 

The court said the four public servants had abused their official position in allotting the shops which led to pecuniary advantage in favour of other accused persons in "blatant violation" of all norms.

CBI had said Kaul and another accused Tara Chaudhary, who was declared proclaimed offender, had entered into conspiracy during October 1991 to November 1994 to fraudulently obtain undue pecuniary advantage in allotment of shops on economic licence fee basis in contravention of rules. 

The court said the allotment and reallotment of shops to several accused "was most arbitrary, unfair and in utter violation of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution, as no criteria or reasonable classification was made for allotting the shops to a particular person or a class of persons, rather the same were made in blatant violation of all established norms of allotment(s) by following favouritism and nepotism." 

The court said there was a huge pecuniary loss to the state exchequer and it had led to huge pecuniary advantage to private persons without any public interest.  "Such act of illegal allotments without looking after the interest of the State, which Kaul was obliged to look after being the Urban Development Minister, as the repository of the power of people, was bound to protect which people had given to her by electing her," it said. 

CBI had claimed that Kaul abused her official position as a minister who was the custodian of government shops. She sanctioned allotment of seven shops in 1991-92 without calling for any application from general public in the Lodhi Road market in South Delhi. 

It had alleged that this had caused undue pecuniary advantage to the accused, who dishonestly allowed transfer of shops to other persons. During the trial, all the accused had claimed that they were innocent and were falsely implicated in the case. 

Apart from the four government officials, nine private persons were made accused, who had obtained pecuniary benefits in an alleged criminal conspiracy. Out of the nine accused, two died during trial, one was declared proclaimed offender, two were discharged and four acquitted by the court.

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