TRINAMOOL Congress MLA from Raniganj in Burdwan district, Sohrab Ali, was on Tuesday sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment by a court in Asansol on charges of stealing railway iron scraps in 1995.
Two more persons were given the same punishment on the same charge by the Seventh Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Asansol. He also fine all four of Rs 5000 each.
On a petition by Ali’s counsel Jagadindra Ganguly, the judge, however, suspended his sentence for three months to enable the petitioner to move a higher court for regular bail. Following this, Ali was granted bail against a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
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Citing a Supreme Court order, Somnath Chatterjee (former Lok Sabha speaker) and Hasim Abdul Halim (former state Assembly speaker) claimed that Ali has automatically lost his Assembly membership, as he has been sentenced for two years or more. The Assembly speaker has to disqualify him and inform the Election Commission that there is a vacancy in Ali’s constituency, they added.
State Assembly Speaker Biman Mukherjee, however, said he was yet to receive a copy of the judgement. “I have been informed via media. I can take a decision only after going through the order,” he added.
“He has been sentenced for two years but the sentence has been stayed for three months to give Ali time to appeal before a higher court. Since there was a stay on the order, Ali will remain MLA for the time being,” Ali’s counsel Jagadindra Ganguly said.
However, Halim said: “The court has given suspended the sentence for three months and not the conviction. He has been convicted and it means that he is no longer an MLA.” Chatterjee added that even if a higher court ruled in Ali’s favour, he will have get re-elected.
Trinamool Congress secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said he will comment only after “knowing the matter properly”. “When the incident happened in the mid-nineties, Sohrab Ali was a leader of an ally of the ruling Left Front. Let us go through the court order first and then only I will comment,” he added.
In 1995, Ali was one of the five persons booked by GRP for stealing railway property, which were later recovered from their residences. One of the accused had died during trial.