New Delhi: A special court here on Monday sentenced former union minister P.K. Thungon to four and a half years in jail in a 1998 corruption case, and said scam after scam has become the "norm of the day".
Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge Ajay Kumar Jain also slapped a fine of Rs.10,000 on Thungon.
The court also handed three-and-half-year jail terms to two other convicts -- C. Sangit and Tali A.O. -- while another convict Mahesh Maheshwari was sentenced to jail for two and a half years.
Thungon, then minister of state for urban development and employment in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, along with the other accused, was involved in misappropriating money meant for an irrigation project in Nagaland.
The court said the case highlights the institutionalised corruption involving the politicians and bureaucrats.
"This case unfolds and bring out in the limelight the known fact that how central grants allocated to public welfare of the states are misappropriated by the highest public functionaries including ministers at the centre, states and top bureaucrats that too with full impunity," the court said.
"The entire records were fudged and nobody dared to complain, despite the fact it is in the knowledge of both at the central as well as state government level."
The court said the "most sad part is that its knowledge is apparent both at the centre and state levels, but no action was taken. On the other hand, the entire government machinery worked to shield the offences committed by the ministers, and the bureaucrats."
The CBI sought maximum punishment for Thungon, saying four more cases were pending against him.
Special Public Prosecutor J.S. Wadia, requesting the court to award severe punishment to the convicts, submitted that Thungon by holding a high ministerial post was obliged to set an example, but was instead found connected with such heinous offences.
However, Thungon's counsel sought leniency saying his client was 68 years old and suffering from low blood pressure and poor eyesight.
Thungon's counsel K.K. Patra said his client's family was dependent on the former minister and he was the only person who has to take care of his wife who was suffering from many diseases and had a brain stroke and hence needs constant care.
Thungon and the others were held guilty of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery of valuable security, forgery for purpose of cheating and using as genuine a forged document under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
According to the CBI, Thungon connived with officials of Nagaland's irrigation and flood control department in placing a bogus order for sausage wire for a project during 1993-94.
Investigations revealed that no wire was supplied to the department but payments were made against bogus delivery. A case was registered against them on 1998.
The CBI court observed that Thungon was chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh as well as a central minister, and in those capacities, he was found to have been involved in the present offence.
"The poor people of Nagaland were cheated through the acts of the convict. However, his contributions for integration of Arunachal Pradesh with the rest of the country and the health of his wife and his suffering during investigation and trial for the last 20 years are also to be taken into consideration," the court said, while deciding the quantum of sentence.