Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari was Friday convicted in a land grab case and sentenced to one year imprisonment, besides being fined Rs 8,000.
An AICC secretary and four-time MLA, Kumari was facing trial in the case for over a decade along with six other persons, two of whom — Piyush Gulati and Prakash Chand — were sentenced to one-year imprisonment.The order was pronounced in the open court by District and Sessions judge Padam Singh. The court, however, suspended the sentence for a month so that Kumari and the other persons can seek relief from a higher court.
Kumari said “I have full faith in the judiciary. I will certainly avail of all my legal options. I am yet to get a copy of the court order. I will appeal the verdict.”
However, four other accused in the case – Mehar Singh,a retired patwari, Dharam Chand and Chet Ram – both retired naib tehsildars and Balwant, a serving kanoongo (revenue officer) who were also booked by the state vigilance in the land grabbing case in 2001, were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.They have also been fined Rs 5,000 each.
The case against against Asha Kumari and others, including her late husband Brijendra Singh, was registered on a basis of a complaint filed by a resident of Chamba Kuldeep Singh, who had alleged that Kumari and others had forged the revenue records, fabricated wills and tampered with revenue entries to grab a portion the forest land to their names, especially Brijender Singh, in 1998.
In all, there were a dozen persons named in the case but after demise of her husband and five others, only seven persons were facing the trial .
The state vigilance and anti corruption bureau had registered an FIR on December 15, 2001 later a Chamba court had also framed charges against her on January 4, 2005. Soon, she got relief from the state high court but later the high court order was challenged in the Supreme Court by the son of Renu Chadha, a former BJP MLA from Dalhousie.
The Supreme Court allowed the plea on December 2, 2011 and referred the case back to the trial court in Chamba.
During the earlier Congress regime, Asha Kumari was also a Cabinet minister for education but she resigned after the court had framed the charges against her. This time,she was inducted as minister she she had been in the rival camp lead by Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur.
In Shimla, Chief Minister when asked for his reaction, declined to comment, saying, “I have not read the order.”
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