Cash for votes: Amar Singh, two others arrested, jailed

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NEW DELHI, Sept 6 (IANS): Rajya Sabha member and former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh became the latest high-profile politician to be sent to Tihar Jail after he alongwith two former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs was arrested Tuesday and sent to judicial custody for alleged involvement in the attempt to bribe MPs ahead of the July 2008 parliament trust vote.

They have been booked under section 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code (criminal conspiracy) and section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Special Judge Sangita Dhingra Sehgal sent Amar Singh as well as Fagan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Singh Bhagora to judicial custody till Sep 19. However, sitting BJP MP Ashok Argal, who was also chargesheeted by the CBI, has not arrested. The police have sought permission from Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to arrest him.

On July 22, 2008, the three BJP MPs waved wads of currency notes in the Lok Sabha, alleging they were given the money to vote in favour of the Manmohan Singh government in the trust vote.

Amar Singh, wearing a cream kurta pyjama, looked shocked when he heard the verdict.

When the judge directed the police to take him under custody, Amar Singh argued: `I am not defying the court`s order. But I would still suggest the court to ask anybody regarding my health condition.`

`You please take advice of anybody, if a person who has undergone kidney transplantation is fit enough to be sent to judicial custody or be forced to live in such a hazardous place.`

But, the judge said: `The order has already been passed. We will look into it on the next date.`

He was then whisked away by policemen to Tihar Jail in west Delhi, where at present former communications minister A. Raja, former Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi and DMK MP Kanimozhi are lodged, besides a host of corporate bigwigs.

`Amar Singh has committed offence under section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act read with section 120 B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code for which the chargesheet is being submitted against him,` police said.

Meanwhile, the court decided to hear arguments on the interim bail plea of Amar Singh Thursday. The court also directed Delhi Police to file its reply on it.

The judge also observed that grounds for interim bail are similar to that of regular bail.

On Aug 24, Delhi Police had filed a chargesheet in the court against six people – Amar Singh, Kulaste, Bhagora, Argal, arrested middleman Suhail Hindustani and Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former associate of BJP leader L.K. Advani.

The 80-page chargesheet alleged that during investigation sufficient evidence had come on record that on the morning of July 22, 2008, Amar Singh hatched  criminal conspiracy with his secretary Sanjeev Saxena to deliver cash of Rs.1 crore as illegal gratification.

Police alleged that Amar Singh `conspired` with Saxena and others to bribe the then MPs and Kulkarni played an `active role` during the trust motion.

During the course of arguments, counsel for Kulkarni informed the court that his client was in the US before the Delhi Police filed the chargesheet. His counsel sought two weeks time from the court to bring his client before the court.

The judge said that Kulkarni needs to appear on Sep 19.

There are 54 witnesses in this case, including CNN-IBN chief Rajdeep Sardesai.

`And in the furtherance of this criminal conspiracy, Saxena, along with another person in a yellow shirt, delivered Rs.1 crore cash at 4, Ferozeshah Road at about 11 a.m. to the three BJP MPs — Ashok Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora as advance out of a total deal of Rs.9 crore as Rs.3 crore (were to be paid) to each MP to abstain from voting during the motion of confidence,` said the chargesheet.

Saxena had reportedly been introduced to Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora as a secretary of Amar Singh. He was caught on camera paying them money.

Slammed by the Supreme Court for shoddy probe in the case, the police made their first arrest in the case – of Saxena – July 17.

The case was registered in 2009 on the recommendation of a parliamentary panel which probed the scandal.

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