Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Amar Singh sent to judicial custody in cash-for-votes scam

Rajya Sabha MP and former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, accused in the cash-for-votes scam, has been sent to judicial custody till 19 September.

The order came after Mr Singh appeared in a Delhi court this afternoon after the judge seemed unconvinced that the MP was too sick to make it to court.

Mr Singh has been accused of offering crores as a bribe to three MPs to support the government in a trust in 2008. Apart from Mr Singh, two former BJP MPs have also been sent to judicial custody in connection with the case.

In July 2008, the Left pulled out of Dr Manmohan Singh's government over a civil nuclear deal with America. Hours before Dr Singh's trust vote on July 22, three BJP MPs appeared in the Lok Sabha waving bundles of cash that they said added upto one crore. The MPs - Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahaveer Bhagora - said the money had been offered to them by Mr Singh's associates if they promised to abstain during the vote.

Today, Mr Singh's lawyer argued that the politician is unwell and faces the risk of infection after the kidney transplant he underwent last year.

The judge seemed skeptical and asked for detailed medical records.

"I have great faith in judiciary, I came here against medical advice. I have to go abroad every three months for treatment and checkups. At home, I saw news channels and was disturbed that they said I'm hiding. That's why I came," Mr Singh said as he arrived in court.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, who was a political advisor to senior BJP leader LK Advani in 2008, was also summoned to court today but did not show up because he is travelling in America.

Like Mr Singh, Mr Kulkarni has been accused by the Delhi Police of playing a central role in what's known as the cash-for-votes scam.

After its investigation, the Delhi Police says that Mr Singh came up with the plan to buy the MP's votes; it has however failed to explain why Mr Singh wanted to orchestrate this illicit support for the UPA government, to which his party provided external support, voting with it on major legislation. Mr Singh's secretary, Sanjeev Saxena, has been arrested for handing over the money to the MPs. So has Sohail Hindustani, who claims he used to be a BJP youth activist and helped handle the transaction between Mr Singh and the trio of MPs.

The MPs had reportedly been offered three crores each; one crore was given to them ahead of the vote as an advance. The Supreme Court which is supervising the police inquiry has said it is critical for the police to now establish the source of the funds.

Mr Singh has denied all charges against him. Sources in the police say that given his considerable political influence, they would prefer for the court to order his arrest, rather than acting on their own initiative. The evidence against him includes detailed phone records which show Mr Saxena calling him repeatedly in the hours before the trust vote. A car owned by Mr Singh also delivered the money to the MPs.

The police believe that the MPs were asked to find buyers by Mr Kulkarni, who fancied himself as a whistleblower and wanted to expose the UPA's willingness to purchase support to survive its no-confidence motion. He has been charged with conspiracy and "inducement."

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