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'Zero tolerance' for graft in defence procurement: Court puts Jaya Jaitley behind bars

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Zero tolerance for graft in defence procurement: Court puts Jaya Jaitley behind bars
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New Delhi: A Delhi court on Thursday sentenced former Samata Party President Jaya Jaitly to four years in jail in a corruption case related to a defence deal, asserting that "there should be zero tolerance towards corruption in defence procurement deals".

Two other convicts Gopal Pacherwal and Major General (Rtd.) S.P. Murgai have also been awarded a similar jail term. On July 20, the three were held guilty of corruption and criminal conspiracy in the purported purchase of hand-held thermal imagers.

CBI judge Virender Bhat, while sentencing them noted: "There should be zero tolerance towards corruption in defence procurement deals as these have direct bearing upon the independence and sovereignty of our country. Hence, the crime which these convicts have committed is of highest degree. They certainly do not deserve any mercy."

"The virus of corruption which has engulfed the entire fabric of our society," the court said "is becoming a major obstacle in the growth and development of our nation".

The convicts have been asked to surrender before the Tihar Jail authorities before 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The genesis of this case lies in a sting operation conducted by a news website Tehelka in the year 2000-2001 termed as 'Operation Westend' to expose the corruption in defence procurements deals in India. Tehelka had made the operation public during mid-March 2001.

Twenty years after the sting operation was done to expose alleged corruption in the defence deal, the court has convicted Jaya Jaitly, Major General S.P. Murgai and Gopal K. Pacherwal in the case.

On the basis of the sting operation, an FIR was registered against four -- Jaya, Major General S.P. Murgai, Gopal K. Pacherwal and Surender Kumar Surekha but the latter turned approver for CBI. The CBI filed the charge sheet against Jaitly and others in 2006.

According to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Jaitly entered into a criminal conspiracy with Murgai, Surekha and Pacherwal in the year 2000-01 and obtained Rs 2 lakh as gratification for herself or for any other person from Mathew Samuel, representative of fictitious firm M/s Westend International, London.

While sentencing them to the four-year jail term, the court noted that they took money from the representative of a fictitious firm without bothering to ascertain whether the firm was actually in operation and whether the product of the said firm sought to be inducted in the Indian Army was worth it.

"They chose to remain blind folded on all the vital aspects of the concerned product of the said fictitious firm only with a view to get some monetary enrichment. By their act, they compromised the entire defence system of the country. It is a crime with very wide and huge repercussion for the entire nation."

According to the CBI, Jaitly did it as a motive to exercise influence upon the public servants in the matter to getting supply orders for defence equipments i.e. Hand Held Thermal Cameras (HHTC) from the Ministry of Defence for the said fictitious firm.

It is alleged that a number of payments were made to Major General S.P. Murgai for his service in this regard and a sum of Rs 1 lakh was paid to Surekha for his assistance in the matter.

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