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Fernandes' associate Jaya Jaitly gets bail in Tehelka defence scam: HC suspends jail term

Jaya Jaitly, who was an associate of socialist George Fernandes, the then Defence Minister in the Vajpayee-led, rightist NDA Government, was caught on tape taking 'bribe' from sting-operators of a fictitious company for defence procurement deal.

NEW DELHI, July 30: A CBI court on Thursday sentenced former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly and two others to four years in jail for 'corruption' in defence procurement during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA Government.

The High Court has admitted Jaya Jaitly's appeal and suspended the operation of the sentence. Pacherwal and Murgai sought time to surrender.

Jaya Jaitly, who was an associate of then Defence Minister George Fernandes, former party colleague Gopal Pacherwal and Major General SP Murgai (retd) were held guilty of corruption and criminal conspiracy by special CBI judge Virender Bhat, who remarked that they sought petty gains, on July 21.

In a sting operation called Operation West End conducted by Tehelka magazine in 2001, the convicts accepted bribe from a fictitious company for supply of non-existing hand-held thermal imagers for the army.

The meetings for the fictitious deal took place at the official residence of George Fernandes. Fernandes had to step down from office.

As per case records, in December 2000, journalists posing as representatives of fictitious London-based arms company West End International taped several politicians, army officers and bureaucrats allegedly accepting bribes to strike defence procurement deals.

“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 and thus cannot be dealt with leniently. For their petty gains, the convicts sought to assist the induction of a product of an unknown fictitious company into the Indian Army, which if done, would have made the Army immensely vulnerable and handicapped in the wake of an enemy attack. The very existence of our country would have come under threat. It was no less than an attack on the independence of our country,” the court said.

“In the opinion of this Court, there should be zero tolerance towards corruption in defence procurement deals as these have a direct bearing upon 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. They deserve the harshest sentence. Showing any kind of mercy towards the convicts would be a mockery of justice and sure to excite the fury of the society at large,” the court added.

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