KATHMANDU, Feb 22: The Supreme Court on Tuesday convicted Minister for Information and Communications Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta of a corruption charge upon finding he had movable and immovable property worth Rs 8.4 million from unknown sources after holding public office in different capacities from 1992 onwards.
As they found that Gupta´s property did not match his legitimate sources of income, Justices Sushila Karki and Tarkaraj Bhatta slapped one and half years imprisonment and Rs 8.4 million in fine, overturning a verdict of the Special Court that had given him a clean chit in the corruption charge filed by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).
The CIAA had filed a case against Gupta, accusing him of earning Rs 20.8 million from unknown sources between 1992 and 2002 when he held public offices ranging from press advisor to then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala to ministers with different portfolios.
Gupta surrendered in writing before the bench where he was present to hear the verdict, immediately after the justices announced his conviction. The court handed Gupta over to Dillibazaar jail.
But as Gupta was guided to a police truck, he tried to give a political color to the verdict and vowed to launch a struggle against it and continue fighting for the cause of Madhes.
"I do not want to comment on the clauses and sub-clauses of the verdict against me as I want to leave it to lawyers to judge this verdict in the coming days. But I have been penalized for what I did in the past and what I have been doing now for the Madhesi people and to forward the Madhesi cause," Gupta told journalists at the Supreme Court premises as the police guided him to their truck.
Gupta further said, "This is not punishment for me but for the movement that I have launched."
He also vowed to further his movement after his release from jail. As he has already served around four months in jail during investigations by the CIAA, he will now be in prison for around 12 months.
"I will not have any meeting with you [journalists] from today onwards as a political activist and leader," Gupta said, urging other Madhesi leaders to take the verdict as a "crisis to be faced by Madhes in future".
This is the second conviction of a politician in a corruption case by the apex court in a year. But Gupta is the first incumbent minister convicted of a corruption charge in Nepal´s political history.
Earlier, last March, the apex court had convicted Nepali Congress leader Chiranjivi Wagle of a corruption charge. Wagle is currently serving a term at Dillibazaar jail, Kathmandu.
According to Gupta´s lawyer Ram Krishna Nirala, Gupta had foreseen his conviction and carried an written application with him announcing his surrender before the bench.
"He had gone to court with that preparation and even carried with him articles that he would need in jail," said Nirala.
Gupta, accompanied by leaders and cadres of his party, had reached the Supreme Court some six hours before the court passed verdict, in a private vehicle and without his bodyguard. Party cadres chanted slogans against the court but he asked them not to do so.
"I have been with you journalist friends for the past 20-25 years but I will not be with you anymore," said Gupta, who announced his resignation as minister for information and communications.
In addition, the court ordered the Kathmandu District Court, which will enforce the implementation of the verdict, to confiscate Rs 36,703 deposited in the name of Gupta´s wife Saraswati Puri at Nepal Bangladesh Bank and Rs 405,855 deposited at Bank of Kathmandu.
Similarly, the court also ordered the Kathmandu District Court to confiscate Rs 90,788 desposited in the name of Gupta at Standard Chartered Bank and seize a land cruiser jeep and Nissan car registered in Gupta´s name.
Gupta amassed Rs 11.9m between 1992 and 2002
The Supreme Court has concluded that Gupta amassed Rs 11.9 million during the period between 1992 and 2002 when he held positions including press advisor to the prime minister, minister at different ministries at different times and member of the then parliament. The court said Gupta earned only 3.5 million rupees from legitimate sources while he amassed 8.4 million rupees from unknown sources. The court also said that Gupta had just Rs 22,000 as savings before he started assuming the post of press advisor to then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala in 1992.
The court said that Gupta does not have legitimate sources of income for the following movable and immovable property.
Land Rover jeep worth Rs 1.8 million and Sunny Nissan car worth Rs 0.66 million
Rs 0.45 and Rs 0.36 million deposited at Bank of Kathmandu and Bangladesh Bank respectively in the name of his wife Sarita Puri
Rs 0.2 million deposited at Standard Chartered Bank in Gupta’s name.
Rs 5.36 million withdrawn from different banks but kept hidden by Gupta.
The court has ordered Kathmandu District Court to confiscate all this illegal property and deposit it in government funds.
End of political career
Gupta won´t be able to contest in any future election or hold any public position even after his release.
As per the Article 65 (C) of the Interim Constitution 2007, a person who has been punished on any criminal charge of moral turpitude is ineligible to become a member of Constituent Assembly i.e. parliament.
Yadav welcomes verdict on Gupta
Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (MPRF) Chairman Upendra Yadav has hailed the Supreme Court´s verdict on Gupta.
Talking to Republica over the phone, Yadav said that with the apex court´s verdict on Gupta, Madhes is now rid of a curse. "The verdict of the Supreme Court has erased a corrupt person like J P Gupta, who had remained a black stain on Madhes. The verdict against a corrupt person has made Madhesi people hold their heads high with pride," he said.
Gupta had formed the Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (Republican) after defecting from the MPRF. "There have been celebrations across Madhes. I have received information that a large number of sweets have been distributed in his home district of Saptari itself to celebrate the verdict," he further said.
Punish Special Court judges: SC
Terming the verdict of the Special Court giving clean chit to JP Gupta erroneous, the Supreme Court directed the Judicial Council to punish judges Bhoop Dhoj Adhikari, Cholendra SJB Rana and Komal Prasad Ghimire.