A special anti-corruption court on Friday let off all accused except one in the 2008 cash-for-vote scandal for lack of evidence. Special Judge Narottam Kaushal noted that MP Ashok Argal and then MPs Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahabir Singh Bhagora — all of the BJP — had taken part in an “enactment” to show horse-trading in Parliament with the help of a prominent TV news channel.
“The practice of laying a trap to catch a bribe-taker is nothing new. Only difference in this case is that trap was laid to catch the bribe-giver and bribe-takers were only decoys,” the court observed.
There was “no direct or indirect evidence” against Argal, Kulaste and Bhagora, or against former SP general secretary Amar Singh, L K Advani’s former aide Sudheendra Kulkarni, and BJP worker Sohail Hindustani, the court said.
The seventh accused, Sanjeev Saxena, was charged with abetting corruption under section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, the court said, there was “no direct or unimpeachable circumstantial evidence to hold that Sanjeev Saxena was employed with Amar Singh”.
The court observed that the police had been unable to trace the trail of the cash, and “the principal offender who attempted to bribe BJP MPs could not be brought before the court”.
The “mere fact that three MPs permitted cameras to be installed on their person or in their house, presupposes that they did not want to hide their activities”, and the defence argument that the entire episode was “enactment of a drama to expose horse-trading” was “absolutely plausible”, the court said.
The fact that the MPs collaborated with a reputed TV channel “further established that they wanted to bring the event in the public domain”, the judge said.
The 30-page order noted that the prosecution had been unable to link Amar Singh to the money allegedly given in his name. Singh’s “statement of (bank) accounts does not show withdrawals corresponding to the amount seized”, the court said. Also, pictures allegedly showing the BJP MPs speaking to Singh did not show “the other side of the conversation”, which might have established that the “Singh sahab” referred to in the conversation was Amar Singh.
On Kulkarni, the court said there was no evidence of his involvement in the giving or taking of the bribe, and he had “only introduced the CNN-IBN team with Sohail Hindustani and the three BJP MPs with a view to facilitate recording of evidence of horse-trading”.