Sukhram seeks leniency in 1996 telecom scam

New Delhi: Former Telecom Minister Sukhram, convicted for taking Rs 3 lakhs as bribe to give a lucrative contract to a private firm in 1996, today pleaded for leniency in a Delhi court on grounds of his old age while the CBI called him a "habitual offender" and sought maximum punishment for him.

86-year-old Sukhram has been held guilty for misusing his official position during his tenure as Telecom Minister in P V Narasimha Rao`s Cabinet in giving a contract worth Rs 30 crore to private firm Haryana Telecom Limited (HTL) to supply 3.5 Lakh Conductor Kilometers (LCKM) of Polythene Insulated Jelly Filled (PIJF) cables to the telecom department.

He was held guilty on Thursday under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code.

Various offences under which he has been convicted entail a maximum sentence of 7 years jail term.
The court is likely to pronounce its ruling on quantum of sentence at 2.30 pm.

Appearing for Sukhram, his counsel pleaded to Special Judge R P Pandey, "I (Sukhram) am an 86-year-old person and attending the trial for past 12 to 13 years. I suffer from old age-related ailments and have lost my wife.

Therefore, a lenient view may be taken." He also submitted that "age is a good consideration for leniency". He said that "as such it is not a case where government has lost any money. The CBI allegation was that he (Sukhram) took bribe but no financial loss has been caused to the government exchequer."

Responding to this, the CBI prosecutor argued that Sukhram is a "habitual offender" as he has been sentenced in two other cases also and deserves no leniency.

On the age issue, the CBI counsel said, "Age is always a consideration but the court should see the age of the accused at the time of committing the offence. But, at present every case is taking 10-15 years and the plea that I am an old person and, therefore, a lenient view should be taken, is not a correct proposition of law governing the sentence of the accused after he is convicted".

The CBI also said, "We should not forget that he was an MP and a minister and has betrayed the confidence of public at large."

Rebutting Sukhram`s argument that no financial loss was caused to the exchequer, the CBI said under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, dealing with the misconduct of a public servant, pecuniary advantage caused to an accused tantamount to causing corresponding loss to the exchequer.

The CBI, in its charge sheet filed in 1998, had accused Sukhram of showing undue favour in awarding the cable supply contract to HTL. Sukhram had been put on trial along with HTL chairman Devinder Singh Choudhary who died during the trial.

In 2009, Sukhram had been held guilty of possessing disproportionate assets worth Rs 4.25 crore.

In 2002, he was awarded a three-year jail term under the Prevention of Corruption Act in a separate case relating to equipment supply for causing a loss of Rs 1.66 crore to the state exchequer. He had allegedly caused undue benefits to Rama Rao, managing director of Hyderabad-based Advance Radio Masts. He is currently out on bail.

A seven time MLA and three time MP, Sukh Ram was expelled from the Congress even though his son Anil Sharma was a minister in the V B Singh government in Himachal Pradesh.

In 1997, he had floated Himachal Vikas Congress. He was inducted in the cabinet of BJP-HVC government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal on March 24, 1998, but had to resign when charges were framed against him in corruption cases.