A special court has convicted the then additional private secretary of former minister for Urban Affairs and Employment Sheila Kaul for his role in a scam relating to allotment of government shops in Delhi between 1991 and 1994.
The court held former government officer Rajan S Lala guilty in the 20-year-old case for offences of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal held that there was a “clear cut conspiracy” between Lala and Kaul, her then additional private secretary D D Arora and assistant private secretary S L Yadav. Kaul, Arora and Yadav have died and proceedings against them have been abated.
The court has fixed the matter for September 5 for order on quantum of punishment.
The court said the four public servants abused their official position in allotting the shops which led to pecuniary advantage in favour of other accused persons in “blatant violation” of all norms.
It said the allotment and re-allotment of shops to several accused “was most arbitrary, unfair and in utter violation of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution, as no criteria or reasonable classification was made for allotting the shops to a particular person or a class of persons, rather the same were made in blatant violation of all established norms of allotment(s) by following favouritism and nepotism.”
Apart from the four government officials, nine private persons were made accused, who had obtained pecuniary benefits in an alleged criminal conspiracy.
Out of the nine accused, two died during trial, one was declared proclaimed offender, two were discharged and four acquitted by the court.
The court rejected the contention of lone convict Lala’s counsel that after Kaul’s death, his client cannot be convicted independently for the conspiracy.
“It would be trite that even after the death of accused 1 (Kaul), accused 2 (Lala) can be tried and convicted for the charge of conspiracy, as the evidence clearly suggests they both were actually and actively involved in the offence of conspiracy,” the judge said.
CBI had said Kaul and another accused Tara Chaudhary, who was declared proclaimed offender, had entered into conspiracy during October 1991 to November 1994 to dishonestly or fraudulently obtain undue pecuniary advantage in allotment of shops on economic licence fee basis in contravention of rules.
The agency had claimed that Kaul abused her official position as a minister who was the custodian of government shops. She sanctioned allotment of seven shops in 1991-92 without calling for any application from general public in the Lodhi Road market in South Delhi.
CBI alleged that this had caused undue pecuniary advantage to the accused, who dishonestly allowed transfer of shops to other persons.
During the trial, all the accused had claimed that they were innocent and falsely implicated in the case.
The court, in its 227-page judgement, said there was a huge pecuniary loss to the state exchequer and led to huge pecuniary advantage to private persons without any public interest.
“Such act of illegal allotments without looking after the interest of the State, which Kaul was obliged to look after being the Urban Development Minister, as the repository of the power of people was bound to protect which people had given to her by electing her,” it said.
It said allotment of shops made by these public servants to various accused, who were either related to them or known to Kaul, was “totally arbitrary, unfair, unreasonable and in violation of Article 14 of Constitution.”
“There is no reasonable classification or exercise of discretion in a fair manner, rather it is a case of gross favouritism and nepotism,” the court said.