Top Indian politician jailed for four years in bribe case

By AFP
Published: April 28, 2012

Laxman, former president of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was secretly videotaped accepting the bribe from journalists pretending to be arms dealers 11 years ago. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: A former top leader of India’s main opposition Hindu nationalist party was jailed for four years on Saturday for accepting a bribe in a fake arms deal that was a media sting operation.

Bangaru Laxman, former president of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was secretly videotaped accepting the bribe from journalists pretending to be arms dealers 11 years ago.

The sting footage was aired on television channels nationwide, creating a political storm for the then BJP government, headed by prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In a New Delhi court, Judge Kanwaljeet Arora sentenced the 72-year-old to four years in prison and imposed a 100,000 rupee ($2,000) fine under India’s anti-corruption act.

“Balancing the twin interest of society and that of the convict, I am of the opinion the interests of justice would be met if the convict is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a term of four years,” the judge said.

India’s courts have taken an increasingly activist role in cracking down on corruption which has become a major political issue in the country.

The Congress government is reeling from a slew of graft allegations, including a multi-billion-dollar telecom scandal, that have sapped its popularity.

The judge, rejecting Laxman’s plea for leniency on health grounds, said it was necessary to send a signal that “rampant corruption” will not be tolerated, according to the Press Trust of India.

Investigative journalism outlet Tehelka taped footage of Laxman accepting a wad of currency notes in connection with the fictitious arms deal.

Laxman had told the court he had been framed and was a victim of entrapment.

After sentencing, Laxman was taken to India’s biggest correctional facility, Tihar Jail, where ex-telecom minister A. Raja is incarcerated on corruption charges over the telecom scandal embroiling the current government.

“The problem of large-scale and rampant corruption, more particularly, the political corruption, is weakening the political body,” the judge said.

In the video, reporters pretending to be arms dealers offered Laxman 100,000 rupees as a bribe to recommend that the defence ministry buy thermal imaging binoculars from a fake British-based company.

Laxman said he took the money as a party donation and gave it to the BJP’s treasurer. After the video was aired on TV, Laxman and then defence minister George Fernandes quit.

Tehelka’s videotaped sting was the first of its kind in India. It opened a new chapter in political reporting and was followed by similar stings.

Reader Comments (10)

  • Parvez
    Apr 28, 2012 - 11:21PM

    A commendable move against corruption by the Indian courts. Justice is not only done but when he goes behind bars for corruption, it is seen to have been done.

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  • Ashar
    Apr 28, 2012 - 11:35PM

    Had it happen in our country they would say, we are still ministers no matter what charges have been proved against us.

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  • OG
    Apr 29, 2012 - 12:18AM

    we should learn from our neighbors! 4 years instead of a 30 seconds that were handed to our corrupt PM

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  • Nitin
    Apr 29, 2012 - 6:41AM

    @OG:
    Well, your neighbors are not that good either. The justice system in India is way too slow. Justice delayed is justice denied. A better example is USA. Rob blogoveyich, the Illinois governed, was charged for corruption, and tried and convicted in two years. This is what the justice system should be like. On the other hand, it took 11 years for the terribly slow Indian courts to convict this laxman guy

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  • Apr 29, 2012 - 6:49AM

    This minister of BJP seems to be insane. He must have though that he is in politics in Pakistan or he might have thought just to do it as an experiment as if he was in Pakistan. However, there is one stark difference and that is the sum of money involved. For 100,000 Rs, he would have been punished for bringing a bad name to politicians. In Pakistan no politician will accept such a petty sum of money as he will be disqualified from politics. Over here it begins with a minimum of a million dollars not rupees and continue going upward, the higher the graft or loot the more respectful one becomes.Recommend

  • Blithe
    Apr 29, 2012 - 7:50AM

    Similar to News of the World sting against
    our cricketers …

    Lol

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  • Mirza
    Apr 29, 2012 - 8:37AM

    Video tape or not, the courts in Pakistan are not going to convict members of PML-N while on tape using a stolen credit card. For these courts there is never enough evidence against the rightwing politicians, terrorists, and generals. Attacking the SC, throwing the SC judges and their families in indefinite detention, multiple acts of high treason, distributing money among rightwing parties to steal elections, aiding and abetting terrorists, all are kosher in Pakistan.

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  • gt
    Apr 29, 2012 - 5:41PM

    @Khalid Pathan sahib,

    Your comment is only partially correct. Please remember that only the fools and the weak go to jail! The true criminals are the ones who are actually either running the government as elected leaders, officials or their crony industrialists. Whether Pakistan or India, it is unees-bees. I think you will have no problem in understanding this issue. The real difference between India and Pakistan is the critical mass of population, 180 million versus 1.2 billion. It is much easier to nachao a bhains than a haathi, and that is what the leaders in Pakistan, civil and military, have managed to accomplish. In India, owing to size and diversity of the population, it is much more difficult for any one group to hijack power. So, no difference in moral quality, merely the physical aspect of the 2 nations provide a buffering effect in one case, and the absence of buffer in the other. At least, that is one aspect, among many other factors.

    The common people in India are as ready to revolt against the ruling dispensation as are the citizens of Pakistan. Perhaps the years 2030-50 will see some very interesting developments that neither the power-mongers of the 2 nations nor their thekedars [e.g. Islamists] can anticipate, because these elements have made NO provisions for the young people just being born and who are going to be born. There will be severe food and resource scarcity for which no preparation has been made, just like 20 years ago no preparation was made although it was know that there would be severe power shortage now in Pakistan. Something will break in both countries, and it will not be the huge mass of the common people!!

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  • Musthaq Ahmed
    Apr 29, 2012 - 8:22PM

    @Khalid Pathan:
    How come you forget to mention Crore Commanders and beaurocrats !
    How about the heads of religious parties who amassed wealth ? How about the money that flows from Saudiarabia to some organisations ?
    Why only PPP and Muslim League or MQM ?
    To set the record straight this is the total spectrum of corruption in Pakistan.

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  • Altaf Ahmed
    May 1, 2012 - 12:22AM

    Pakistan needs drastic changes in politics and government led organizations. Accountability and transparency shoud be on top of the list. People servants eg; politicians must declare their assets prior to enter to play the politics. Public servants must declare all the expenditure incurred, on the website provided only for this purpose. Zardari must brought to justice without delay to save the country from disaster. Before attaining the highest office of the country he was a convicted criminal declared by the Swiss government. We do not want such consitution that provide safe heaven to dacoits. Gillani the convicted must leave the office of prime minister at once. Pakistan at this stage is governed by the bunch of criminals, only the people and country will suffer not the criminals protecting the plundered mony of this poor nation,.

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