In a first-ever conviction of any member of the present state government in Punjab,a Mohali Special Court on Monday convicted Sohan Singh Thandal,Chief Parliamentary Secretary holding the charge of Agriculture department in the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP combine government,in a case of criminal misconduct,corruption and disproportionate assets registered during the previous Congress government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh more than eight years ago.
Special Judge Rajinder Aggarwal held the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLA from Mahilpur in Hoshiarpur district guilty under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(i)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,1988,and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years and to pay a fine of Rs 25,000 under Section 13(2) of the Act.
In case of default of payment of fine,Thandal would further undergo RI for a period of four months,ordered the court,while ruling that the period of imprisonment undergone during the investigation,enquiry or trial be set off as per law.
Complying with the court order,Thandal,who along with his counsel,was present in the court when the judgment was pronounced around 4 pm,furnished bail bond of Rs 25,000 and a surety bond in the like amount,accepting which,the Special Judge granted him interim bail and ordered to suspend the sentence till June 1,before which the accused will be at liberty to challenge his conviction before the High Court.
After hearing rival contentions and going through the case file,the judge observed,I am of the considered view that in the instant case difference between the assets of the accused and his known sources of income has been found to be Rs 3,62,700,which was over 10 per cent of his total receipts found to be Rs 31,46,254. This was despite the fact that his household expenditure has been claimed as 40 per cent of his salary and even loan transactions projected by him have been accepted by the court. Moreover,the evidence on the file shows that at the time of search of his house,US curency amounting to Rs 99,680 was recovered,which has not been mentioned in the chargesheet filed by the prosecution.
In its 29-page judgment,Aggarwal concluded,Under these circumstances,this court is satisfied that from the evidence on the file,it is proved that accused has committed offence of criminal misconduct as his assets/expenditure are disproportionate to his known sources of income and he has not been able to give satisfactory account for the same. Consequently,I hold the accused guilty under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(i)(e) of the Act and he is convicted under the said Section.
On the quantum of sentence,the convict submitted that he was first offender. He has not indulged in any malpractice and the case was registered against him due to political rivalry. He has been leading a simple life. He prayed for taking a lenient view towards him. However,the public prosecutor argued for adequate punishment to the accused.
After giving my anxious thoughts to the rival submissions,I am of the considered view that no ground for any leniency is made out. The corruption is such a malady,which has gripped our entire public administration system. The act of indulging into corruption by a representative of the public in the democratic set up is a serious offence, ruled Aggarwal.
The case dates back to January 29,2003,and was registered under sections 420,467,468,471,120-B IPC,Sections 13(1) read with sections 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act,1988,by Punjab Vigilance Bureau in Mohali. Thandal,who was a Cabinet minister in Punjab during the Badal regime of 1997-2002,was accused of accumulating wealth by indulging in corruption and acquiring properties in his own name and in the names of others,which were disproportionate to his known sources of income. He was arrested and later released on bail. On completion of investigation,a challan and supplementary challan were presented against him. On finding a prima facie case,charges under Sections 13(1)(e) read with Section 13(2) of the Act were framed against the accused on May 8,2007. However,it was found that no offence under sections 420,467,468,471 read with Section 120-B IPC was made out against him. Also,the court found that no charge was made out against a co-accused Nirman Singh,who was ordered to be discharged on May 8,2007. Thandal pleaded not guilty to the charge and had claimed trial,which concluded on Monday.