Four days after he was convicted in a 1995 case of illegal limestone mining, Gujarat Congress MLA from Talala Bhaga Barad was disqualified as a member of the Legislative Assembly by Speaker Rajendra Trivedi on Tuesday. This is for the first time that an MLA of the state has been disqualified after being convicted.
“As per the Supreme Court judgment of July 2013, Congress MLA from Talala, Bhaga Barad has been declared disqualified as a member of the Assembly subsequent to his conviction by a trial court in Sutrapada in Gir Somnath district on March 1,” a notification read.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Trivedi said he took action soon after receiving a copy of the court verdict. “The Sutrapada court had delivered its judgment on March 1 and from that date itself, Barad had ceased to be an MLA technically,” he said. The Speaker said he had notified the Election Commission of India to take further action against Barad.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Barad declined to comment on his disqualification. However, Leader of the Opposition Paresh Dhanani alleged that the ruling BJP was targeting Congress MLAs.
“We have full faith in the judiciary and we are certain we will get justice. While the court has convicted him, Barad was nowhere named in the original complaint nor is his name in the FIR of the case registered in 1995. His name is also not there in the records of the company,” Dhanani said.
He further said Barad was framed in the case to target him politically since BJP did not have a single MLA in the Junagadh Lok Sabha seat. “Barad was framed in the case to target him politically. This is a ploy by the BJP as the party does not have a single MLA in the Junagadh Lok Sabha seat when the elections are round the corner. We shall move Gujarat High Court,” Dhanani said.
Barad, who is the younger brother of late Congress leader Jashu Barad, has been sentenced to 32 months of rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 2,500. The court found him guilty of mining 2,83,525 metric tonnes of limestone worth Rs 2.83 crore after illegally mining the mineral from pastoral land of Sutrapada town and then supplying it to Gujarat Heavy Chemical Limited (GHCL) by using lease documents of someone else.