Sukh Ram gets three year jail for graft, secures bail (Third Lead)

February 25th, 2009 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Terming corruption as a cancer, a court Wednesday sentenced former central communications minister Sukh Ram to three years rigorous imprisonment for amassing wealth disproportionate to his incomes, but gave him interim bail after fining him Rs.200,000.
Sukh Ram, 82, looked unsettled as Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge V.K. Maheshwari read out the sentence in a packed courtroom, slamming political corruption as the worst form of corruption.

“The cancer of corruption has eaten into the vitals of Indian society. It has already done immense damage to our society. If the public servants are corrupt, the whole structure of society would be upset and the policies of government would be adversely affected,” Maheshwari said. “Thus, a corrupt public servant is a menace to society.

“Political corruption is the worst form because its consequences are far reaching. When our leaders, who are the role models of society and whose very action should be above board, are themselves corrupt, how can we expect honesty and virtue from the public at large? The need of the hour is that the cancer of corruption should be immediately checked.”

The court imposed a fine of Rs.200,000, which the former Congress politician paid up, and suspended his sentence till April 23, until when he can challenge the ruling in the high court.

The judge also granted him interim bail on his furnishing personal and surety bond of Rs.50,000 each. But Sukh Ram was told not to leave India without the court’s permission for two months.

Sukh Ram, who was accompanied by his son and grandson, later told reporters that he would move the high court. “My lawyers will go through the judgement and I will definitely appeal in the high court.”

Investigators uncovered stacks of currency notes, jewellery and other valuables totalling Rs.4.25 million from Sukh Ram’s houses in New Delhi and in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh in August 1996. Sukh Ram, who was a minister in the 1991-96 government of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, could not explain where the money came from. He was booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

On Wednesday, the court forfeited the entire amount.

While deciding the quantum of punishment, the court quoted an apex court judgment to underline that awarding light sentences in white collar crimes would be improper.

“Punishment is designed to protect society by deterring potential offenders as also by preventing the guilty party from repeating the offence. Too lenient as well as too harsh a sentence both lose their efficaciousness,” the court said. “One does not deter and the other may frustrate by making the offender a hardened criminal.”

The court also asked the CBI to release documents seized from Sukh Ram.

Sukh Ram’s lawyer S.P. Minocha said he would decide on further action only after going through the judgement.

CBI counsel Gurdial Singh, who had sought the maximum punishment of seven years imprisonment for Sukh Ram, expressed satisfaction about the outcome of the case.

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