Former Haryana Chief Minister OP Chautala’s application, in Delhi High Court for early release from jail, has put the Aam Aadmi Party in a dilemma. Chautala, 83, who is serving a 10-year jail term in Haryana’s JBT teachers recruitment scam along with his elder son Ajay Singh Chautala and 53 others, had approached Delhi High Court on Tuesday (February 19, 2019) to seek directions to the government to release him from prison in accordance with the centre’s policy July 18, 2018, giving special remission to certain categories. While hearing the case on Wednesday, the Delhi High Court bench consisting of justices Siddharth Mridul and Pareek Jalan asked the Delhi’s AAP government to decide the premature release plea of Chautala within four weeks.
Chautala has contended that keeping in mind his age (83), disability and the period of seven years (out of 10 years) spent in jail, his premature release application may be considered.
Assuring the court a decision on Chautala’s representation, the Delhi government’s Counsel Rahul Mehra opposed the plea of Chautala on the ground that he (Chautala) was convicted for corruption which was a serious offence.
But Chautala’s advocate Amit Sahni pleaded, “Chautala was convicted for 10 years under the Indian Penal Code and seven years under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He has already undergone the sentence awarded under the Prevention of Corruption Act and also has a permanent disability of 60 per cent (as on April 2013) and later has undergone implantation of a pacemaker in June 2013. The disability is progressive and at present, it is more than 70 per cent and he fulfills the conditions laid in two clauses of the said notification. His age is 83, which itself is sufficient to consider releasing him by giving the benefit of the notification.”
What is the centre’s policy July 18, 2018?
As part of the commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the following categories of prisoners will be considered for special remission and released in three phases. In Phase-l, the prisoners will be released on October 2, 2018 (Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi), in Phase-ll prisoners, will be released on April 10, 2019 (Anniversary of Champaran Satyagraha) and in Phase-Ill, prisoners will be released on October 2, 2019 (Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi):-
(a) Women convicts of 55 years of age and above, who have completed 50 per cent of their actual sentence period.
(b) Transgender convicts of 55 years of age and above, who have completed 50 per cent of their actual sentence period.
(c) Male convicts of 60 years of age and above, who have completed 50 per cent of their actual sentence period.
(d) Physically challenged/disabled convicts with 70 per cent disability and more who have completed 50 per cent of their actual sentence period.
(e) Terminally ill convicts.
(f) Convicted prisoners who have completed two-thirds (66 per cent) of their actual sentence period.
Special remission will not be given to prisoners who have been convicted for an offence for which the sentence is sentence of death or where the death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment; Cases of convicts involved in serious and heinous crimes like Dowry death, Rape, Human Trafficking and convicted under POTA, UAPA, TADA, FICN, POCSO Act, Money Laundering, FEMA, NDPS, Prevention of Corruption Act, etc.
Now, the ball is in the court of Delhi’s AAP government. Seeing the overhead next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Haryana and hoping for a tie-up with OP Chautala’s own grandsons’ recently raised Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), however an opponent of O P Chautala’s INLD, in these elections , Kejariwal government will think twice while recommending a note on Chautala’s application of release . Political analysts conclude that in both ways there is a political risk to AAP-JJP alliance in the state. If Delhi government gives positive recommendations and Chautala gets out of jail, he will certainly reenergise the dozing Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and warm up its workers losing hopes, which may mar the winning chances of AAP-JJP alliance in Haryana.
And if Kejariwal government turns down the release plea, it will undoubtedly create anger and resentment towards AAP-JJP entente and sympathy for INLD among the Jat voters of Haryana. Already there is a resentment in the rural area against the Delhi government’s alleged decision to obstruct Chautala’s furlough application just before Jind by-elections on January 28, 2019, which reflected in transferring of the INLD votes seeing the lesser chances of win for INLD candidate to the defeater (BJP) to obstruct the winning path of AAP-JJP alliance candidate, Digvijay Singh Chautala – a rebellion from INLD. The second decision of the Delhi government may force the INLD leadership to have a tie-up with BJP or in case of failure of any alliance with BJP, it may again agitate INLD voters to transfer their votes to BJP instead of supporting their own ground losing candidates to defeat INLD’s main political enemy JJP and thus make the win for BJP easy and accessible.
The INLD party leaders had publicized during Jind election that AAP-JJP alliance had obstructed the furlough of EX-CM O P Chautala to keep him away from the election. They alleged that initially, the INLD chief was to be released on furlough on January 22, ahead of Jind by-poll. However, the release was postponed to January 29, that is, after the elections with the condition that he shall not attend any political meeting and shall not indulge in political activities during the period of furlough.
Attacking the JJP and AAP and accusing the former Chief Minister OP Chautala’s own grandson, Member of Parliament Dushyant Chautala, of backstabbing his own grandfather the state INLD president Ashok Arora had alleged, “It is clear that AAP government in Delhi along with Dushyant and Digvijay have played a role in the denial of furlough. They have stooped to a new low by doing this.”
Now if we see the objections raised by Delhi government’s counsel Rahul Mehra before the Delhi High Court on Wednesday while opposing the release plea on the ground that he (Chautala) was convicted for corruption which was a serious offence, it creates suspicion that Kejriwal government would recommend a favourable note. Whatever the decision may be, but surely it will have a long way effect on INLD and also on AAP-JJP alliance future.
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