April 1, 2018 1:28:58 am
The counsel of Congress Councillor Devinder Singh Babla on Saturday submitted written arguments in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Ashwani Kumar Mehta seeking relaxation in the quantum of sentence against his client, held guilty on charges of cheating in a case pertaining to the allotment of sheds at the Sector 26 Grain Market in 2009. The matter will be heard next on April 2.
On Saturday morning, Babla was brought to court by the police after being declared guilty on March 27. The ADJ court had allowed the appeal of the state against the trial court order which had convicted and subsequently released Babla on probation in the case.
As proceedings got underway, Advocate A S Sukhija argued that according to Section 386 CrPC, the appellate court cannot award a sentence to his client more than the three years given by the trial court. He further argued that the lower court had released Babla on probation, meaning he was entitled to probation. Now, this court has added further conviction under sections 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), but the matter is the same and so probation can be allowed to the convict.
Sukhija also apprised the court citing judgments in similar cases where the accused were awarded convictions but granted probation. Sukhija also argued that in the current case, since the convict had already undergone four months and three days’ imprisonment when he was arrested and now after conviction, he has been in jail for five more days, he should be let off. Following the argument by the defence counsel, the court asked the prosecution to present their arguments. The prosecution then sought time for reply and the case was adjourned for further arguments to April 2.
Babla breaks down
After taking permission to make a voluntary statement, Babla pleaded innocence and stated that he had not committed any crime and he had been serving the people of Chandigarh for 30 years. If he had committed a crime, he would not have filed an appeal after being initially released on probation.
He added that chairman of a market committee does not have enough power to make such allotments but the mayor does. He was part of a committee formed by the deputy commissioner, who also approved the allotments. Babla added that none of the 59 allottees submitted any complaint against him and the ongoing case was a result of political vendetta.
Babla then broke down and stated that while his 82-year-old father was a heart patient, he needs to get one of his sons married. He added that he had faced a problem in getting his elder son married as the girl’s parents had objected to him being booked for cheating.
In August 2009, Chandigarh Police had registered a case of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy against Babla, a former chairman of the market committee, for irregularities in the allotment of 69 platforms at the market. It was alleged that although there were 59 licensees, 10 ineligible people were also accommodated during the auction on July 24, 2009, when Babla was chairman.
According to the police, Suraj Parkash Ahuja, owner of shop numbers 9 and 10 in the Grain Market, had lodged a complaint alleging irregularities during the auction and allotment of platforms in the market.
According to the police, Babla got the allocation papers prepared and put his signatures on those, although the subdivisional magistrate had not finalised the allotment.
Babla then surrendered on December 28, 2009, after a court issued orders asking him to appear or be declared a proclaimed offender. A Chandigarh Police SIT submitted the chargesheet against Babla in February 2010.
Although key witness G R Pillai, assistant secretary of the marketing committee, took a U-turn on his statement during the trial, another witness Ranjit Singh, who was also a market committee official, corroborated the allegations in court.
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