Chamba: AICC secretary and Himachal Pradesh's ruling Congress MLA Asha Kumari was today sentenced to one year's imprisonment in a case of grabbing of forest land in Dalhousie.
Chamba District and Sessions Judge Padam Singh convicted Kumari, her two associates and four retired officials in the case. Kumari, a five-time MLA, was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 8,000.
The court also sentenced two co-convicts -- Pusap Gulati and Prakash Chand -- to undergo simple imprisonment for one year, besides asking them to pay a fine of Rs 1,000 each. Kumari is the MLA from Dalhousie constituency. District Attorney S S Pathania said Kumari and the two co-accused had been convicted under relevant sections of IPC in the land case.
Four former revenue department officials have also been sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs 5,000 has been imposed on each of them. These co-convicts are Mehar Chand (retired Patwari), Dharam Chand (retired naib Tehsildar), Chet Ram (retired naib Tehsildar) and Balwan (Kanungo).
They had been convicted by the court under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and section 13 (2) of Prevention of Corruption Act. Pathania said Kumari, her late husband Brijender Singh and officials of the revenue department were booked by the Vigilance department on charge of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy in 2001.
At that time, there were 13 accused named in the FIR, out of whom six have since died. The deceased accused were Narinder, Ashok, Puran Singh, Prakash Chand, Vijay Singh, Gurucharan Dass and Brijendra Singh, husband of Kumari.
The case dates back to 1998 when a former municipal councillor Kuldeep Kumar had lodged a complaint against Brijender Singh and some revenue officials alleging that Kumari and her husband had tampered with the revenue records to transfer 67.3 bighas of government land, including forest, near Dalhousie in their name.
State Vigilance and Anti Corruption Bureau had registered an FIR on December 15, 2001. On January 4, 2005, a court in Chamba framed charges against Kumari, then Education Minister, and others. Following the framing of charges, Kumari resigned from the ministry and moved the High Court that set aside the order passed by the Chamba court on the ground that she was denied an opportunity of being properly heard.
However, in December 2011, the Supreme Court had set aside the relief granted to Asha Kumari by the Himachal Pradesh High Court and asked the Special Judge to go ahead with the trial. In August 2012, the court of Special Judge had framed charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and forgery against Kumari and others.
Meanwhile, when contacted DP Malhotra, lawyer for Kumari, told over the phone that on the application of the convicts, the court has allowed the suspension of sentence for thirty days.