The Delhi High Court on Thursday placed on hold the four-year jail term that a lower court gave to former Samata Party chief Jaya Jaitly and two others in a corruption case earlier in the day, PTI reported.

On July 21, a special CBI court in Delhi convicted Jaitly, former party colleague Gopal Pacherwal and retired Major General SP Murgai in a 20-year-old corruption case related to a purported defence deal. On Thursday, the court sentenced them to four years in prison, fined them Rs 1 lakh each and ordered them to surrender by 5 pm.

After Jaitly challenged the July 21 order, Delhi High Court’s Justice Suresh Kumar Kait stayed the jail term and sought the Central Bureau of Investigation’s response to the appeal challenging the conviction and sentence.

The case

Jaitly, Pacherwal and Murgai were held guilty for corruption and criminal conspiracy between December 2000 and January 2001 in the procurement of supply orders for hand-held thermal imagers for the Army. The case was exposed by a sting operation done by Tehelka in 2001.

The special CBI court, while convicting the three, held that Jaitly had accepted Rs 2 lakh from Mathew Samuel, who was representing a fictitious company called Westland International. The major general received Rs 20,000, it noted.

It is “proved beyond doubt that in the meeting in the hotel room on December 25, 2000, Surekha [Surender Kumar Surekha, who turned approver] and Murgai assured their assistance to Samuel in procuring letter of evaluation for the product of his company from the Ministry of Defence and also to arrange a meeting between him and accused Jaya Jaitly, who would provide political cover to them in this regard”, the lower court said.

“It was agreed that Samuel would pay Rs 1 lakh each to Surekha and Murgai and Rs 2 lakh to Jaitly,” the court noted. “Thus there had been an agreement between them to obtain the evaluation letter for the concerned product by illegal means, i.e. by resort to corruption and personal influence upon the concerned officials.”

Pacherwal arranged a meeting on December 28, 2000, where, besides him, Jaitly, Surekha, Samuel and Murgai were also present. “In that meeting, which took place in the official residence of the then Union Minister for Defence, George Fernandes, Samuel was introduced to Jaitly as a businessman whose company intends to enter the market of defence procurement,” the court said.

“Samuel offered the sum of Rs 2 lakh to Jaitly who instructed him to handover the money to Pacherwal and accordingly, the money was received by accused Pacherwal knowing that it was bribe money,” the special CBI court order said. “In lieu thereof, Jaitly assured Samuel that in case the product of his company is not considered, she would intervene by making a request to ‘Sahib’ [purportedly the Defence Minister Mr George Fernandes] to send a word to the concerned officer in this regard.”

Both Jaitly and Pacherwal are guilty of conspiracy as they received money as a motive or reward to accomplish certain tasks, the court noted.