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The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Mr Rao's sentencing marks the fall of a key figure in Indian politics"
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The BBC's Satish Jacob in Delhi
The case may encourage more faith in the judiciary
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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Ex-Indian PM sentenced to jail
Indian parliament
Charges of bribery during a crucial parliamentary vote
The former Indian prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao, has been sentenced to three years in prison for corruption.

The charges relate to a bribery scandal during his term in office.


We are going to appeal against the conviction and sentence in the High Court

Defence counsel RK Anand
Last month Mr Rao, 79, was convicted for giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to members of a regional party in 1993, to back his Congress government in a crucial parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

A cabinet colleague, Buta Singh, also received a three-year sentence. But the judge, Ajit Bharihoke, granted both men bail until 8 November, to allow them to appeal to a higher court.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says the case is seen as a landmark in India with prosecutors urging the judge to make an example of Mr Rao, to serve as a deterrent to those who serve high office.

"The high office they have held should not come in the way of getting a fitting punishment," prosecutor RN Tiwari argued.

But our correspondent says the sentence will be seen by many as a compromise - Mr Rao could have received a sentence of anywhere between six month and seven years.

PV Narasimha Rao
Mr Rao is the first Indian PM to be convicted
Mr Rao was present in the courtroom which was packed with media and security personnel and left immediately after the judgement.

"I sentence the accused PV Narasimha Rao and Buta Singh to rigorous imprisonment up to three years and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($2,150)," the judge said in his order.

Corruption

The former premier's lawyers had asked for leniency from the judge citing Mr Rao's poor health and his long history of public service including his stint as prime minister.

PV Narasimha Rao
Born into a high-caste Hindu peasant family

Became Andhra Pradesh chief minister in 1971

Elected to parliament in 1977

Foreign and home minister under Indira Gandhi 1980-84

Became PM in 1991 heading a minority government

Defeated in 1996 elections - resigns as party president

Charged in bribery case the same year
"We are going to appeal against the conviction and sentence in the High Court," defence counsel, RK Anand, said.

Mr Rao, who held office from 1991-96, is the first Indian prime minister to be convicted in a criminal case.

As head of the Congress Party, he led a minority government and is credited for taking significant steps towards reforming the Indian economy.

But in 1996, he quit as party president after the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in general elections.

Concern over corruption is mounting in India and there have been a rash of judgements recently against politicians.

A former chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, was last week sentenced to three years in jail for corruption.

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See also:

29 Sep 00 | South Asia
Bribery conviction for ex-Indian PM
09 Oct 00 | South Asia
Indian ex-minister guilty of land deal
04 Apr 00 | South Asia
Analysis: India's criminal politicians
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