New Delhi: Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Bangaru Laxman has been convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the 2001 Tehelka sting case. A Delhi court convicted Bangaru on Thursday and announced that the sentencing would take place on Saturday.
The court of special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge Kanwaljeet Arora sent Bangaru into judicial custody soon after convicting him. Bangaru broke down in the court after the verdict was announced.
Aniruddha Bahal, who was a part of the Tehelka.com team that carried out the sting, expressed his happiness at the verdict pointing out that he and his team was harassed by the then Central government for carrying out the sting operation.
"It's a relief that our story has been proved right. There was a judicial commission put on us. They investigated the people who brought out this story. We were harassed," said Bahal.
The BJP said that the verdict may be challenged. "We respect the verdict of the court. We have to examine it, and will think if we can challenge it in the upper courts," said BJP leader Vinay Katiyar.
Meanwhile, the Congress was quick to target the BJP, claiming that a party whose former president had been convicted in a corruption case had no right to question others.
"The irony for the BJP is that the chickens have come home to roost and have come rather quickly. The BJP was raising the bogey of Bofors just yesterday when that matter has reached a judicial decision. It's time they should introspect. People who stay in glass houses should not throw stones at other's house," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
"BJP has made history today and it's party president convicted of corruption. I was sad when Jaswant Singh called for a judicial commission on Bofors. Wish Jaswant Singh should have asked for a judicial probe on Tehelka sting. It's a sad day for politics in India. I wish no more Bangaru Laxman should emerge either on camera or off. With what face can they ask for a judicial commission on Bofors now," said Telecom and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal.
Bangaru was caught on camera accepting money in a 2001 sting operation conducted by Tehelka.com. He was seen taking bribe from fake arms dealers for facilitating a fictitious defence deal case. The video CDs, which were released by the portal on March 13, 2001, had sparked a political storm following which Bangaru resigned as BJP chief.
The journalists posed themselves as representatives of a fictitious UK-based company West End International and were seeking his recommendation to the ministry for supply of hand-held thermal imagers for the Indian Army.
As per the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chargesheet, Tehelka journalists had held eight meetings with Bangaru between December 23, 2000, and January 7, 2001, projecting themselves as supplier of defence-related products.
The CBI had alleged that Bangaru had accepted Rs 1 lakh from the representatives of the purported firm on January 1, 2001, at his office for pursuing their proposal to supply certain products to the Army.
Bangaru was booked under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly accepting money from fake arms dealers to recommend to the Defence Ministry to award them a contract to supply their wares for the Army.
Bangaru's former personal secretary T Satyamurthy, who was a co-accused, was granted pardon by a trial court after he turned an approver in the case.
(With additional information from PTI)