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Sitting BJP MLA Narendra Mehta from Mira-Bhayander Assembly constituency in Thane district was on Tuesday acquitted in a 14-year-old case of bribery by a court in Thane. Special Judge V V Bambarde of the district court let off the legislator after the prosecution failed to prove beyond all doubts the case against the accused who allegedly demanded and accepted a bribe of Rs 20,000 from the complainant in 2002 when he was a corporator.
Mehta was today acquitted of all charges under Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988.
Besides being the mayor of Mira-Bhayander Municipal corporation, Mehta who got elected as a MLA, was also the city unit president of the BJP.
District Government pleader Sangita E Phad, told the court in her submission that it was on December 27, 2002 that Mehta had demanded and accepted a sum of Rs 20,000 from a builder Hanumant Malusare for allowing him illegal construction and protecting it in the Golden Nest area here.
The accused was tried under sections under sections 7, 12, 13(1),(d) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988.
Appearing for Mehta advocates Harshad Phonda, Chandrakant Babardesai and Rajan Salunke contested the entire case and said the accused was not at all involved in the offence and was falsely implicated in the case to tarnish his political image.
The district court had earlier vide its order in 2010 discharged Mehta from the case stating that elected representatives do not come under the purview of public servants.
This order was challenged by Malusare and the state government in the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court while setting aside the lower court order held that the elected representatives are public servants and also gave reference to the Rajasthan High Court.
Subsequently, the Bombay HC sent back the case to the Thane District Court for re-trial.
However, Mehta challenged this order in the Supreme Court. It dismissed his plea and directed the Thane District Court to try the case and dispose it off.
After the apex court order, the case was once again tried by the district court by recording evidence and finally decided today.
The judge in his order stated that the accused was being given benefit of doubt and being acquitted.
He also said that one of the witnesses had deposed against the prosecution and hence ordered the state to prosecute him while setting the MLA free.