Indian politician jailed for four years for bribery

NEW DELHI - A former top leader of India's main opposition Hindu nationalist party was jailed for four years on Saturday for accepting a bribe to swing a fake arms deal in a media sting operation.

Bangaru Laxman, former chief of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was secretly videotaped accepting the bribe from journalists pretending to be arms dealers 11 years ago.

The sting footage was aired on television channels nationwide, creating a political storm for the then BJP government, headed by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Additional Sessions Court Judge Kanwaljeet Arora sentenced the 72-year-old Laxman to four years "rigorous imprisonment" and imposed a 100,000 rupee (S$2,360) fine on the politician under India's anti-corruption act.

"Balancing the twin interest of society and that of the convict, I am of the opinion that the interests of justice would be met if the convict is sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a term of four years," the judge said.

India's courts have taken an increasingly activist role in cracking down on corruption which has become a hot-button issue with the Congress government reeling from a slew of graft allegations that have sapped its popularity.

In handing down the sentence, the judge said it was necessary to send a signal that "rampant corruption" will not be tolerated.

Indian investigative journalism outlet Tehelka had taped the footage of Laxman accepting the money in connection with a fictitious arms deal.

Laxman, who was then BJP president, had told the New Delhi court he had been framed.

The court rejected Laxman's plea for leniency and ordered that he be taken into custody to serve his sentence.

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