Death sentences, jail terms and huge fines. The year 2017 saw the judiciary come down hard on convicts accused of big or brutal crimes, be it netas, celebrities or otherwise. Here’s a run-down to savour the moments where justice prevailed and democracy stood victorious.
Tamil Nadu Disproportionate Assets case
Amid the political turmoil in the state after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s death, AIADMK’s then controversial General Secretary VK Sasikala was convicted on February 14, 2017 in the Disproportionate Assets case.
According to the charges in the 19-year-old case, Jayalalithaa along with three co-accused, Sasikala, Sasikala’s sister-in-law Ilavarasi, and Sasikala’s nephew VN Sudhakaran (Jayalalithaa’s foster son who she disowned later) acquired assets of Rs 66.65 crore, which was disproportionate to her known sources of income.
As a result of her conviction, Sasikala was sentenced to a jail term of four years and stood disqualified under the Representation of the People Act. This meant she could not contest polls for six years from the date of her release from prison, which is 10 years hence.
The sentence dealt a major blow to her power in the ruling AIADMK party, as she became ineligible to be the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu then. This subsequently led to the current Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy rising to power and later joining hands with another faction under now deputy Chief Minister O Paneerselvam, while exiling Sasikala from the party.
Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s rape case
In a conviction, which led to this year’s most shocking violent agitation, self-styled Godman and Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for the rape and criminal intimidation of two ‘Sadhvis’ (women followers) in 1999. He was also slapped with fines of Rs 15 lakh in each case, of which Rs 14 lakh each must be paid to each victim.
Following his conviction and sentence on August 28, hundreds of Dera Sacha Sauda followers took to the streets and went on a rampage in Haryana’s Panchkula. Attempts were in fact made to free Ram Rahim. Later, Honeypreet Insan, who claims to be the adopted daughter of Dera chief Ram Rahim, was accused of inciting the violence. She and several aides were soon after arrested in October and the case is pending in court.
Mumbai serial blasts case
In 1994, serial blasts ripped Mumbai apart, killing over 250 people and injuring more than 700 others. Twenty four years later, in September 2017, the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court awarded death penalty to Feroz Khan and Tahir Merchant for conspiring against the State and murder, and gave life sentences to Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan. The fifth accused, Riyaz Siddiqui, got a 10-year jail term.
Although justice might have been served, despite being held guilty of conspiracy under the stringent TADA, Abu Salem managed to escape the noose because of the extradition treaty that India signed with Portugal to bring him back to the country. According to the treaty signed in 2007, persons extradited from Portugal cannot be sentenced to death.
The case still sees no end unfortunately as 35 others, including prime accused, Mumbai underworld don, Dawood Ibrahim, his associates Tiger Memon and Javed Chikna, are still on the run.
On December 23, 2017, Bihar’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav was convicted after 21 years by a special CBI court in Ranchi in a case of the state’s Rs 1,000 crore fodder scam. The court will announce the quantum of sentence for the convicts on January 3, 2018.
Earlier, 58 people, including Lalu Prasad Yadav’s nephews and two former regional directors of the animal husbandry department, were convicted and handed jail terms of 5-6 years each in May 2007.
The Rs 1,000-crore fodder scam was unearthed in January 1996 when massive embezzlement of funds from the government treasury in Chaibasa (Jharkhand) was found and the animal husbandry department’s office there was raided.
Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and former Coal Secretary HC Gupta were sentenced to three years imprisonment by a special court in a case of the multi-crore coal block allocation scam that came to light in 2007. Former Jharkhand chief secretary AK Basu and Vijay Joshi, a close aide of the then chief minister, were also awarded a jail term of three years.
The coal block allocation scam is a major political scandal concerning the Indian government's allocation of the country's coal deposits to public and private companies. In March 2014, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India office accused the government of allocating coal blocks in an inefficient manner between 2004 and 2009. Later, it was discovered that massive corrupt practices were involved in the allocation, instead of competitive bidding.