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Bharali gets 4-year RI for corruption

Guwahati, Nov. 21: Sanghamitra Bharali, a former Assam Assembly employee who hit the headlines for her alleged secret marriage with former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, was today sentenced to four years’ rigorous imprisonment for possessing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income.

The court of special judge, Assam, M. Mazed Ali, passed the order and imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on her, failing which she will have to undergo rigorous imprisonment for another year.

Bharali, who is also a singer, was convicted by the court under Section 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The court also ordered confiscation of her flat at Godavari Co-Operative Housing Society in Andheri in Mumbai and directed the chief secretary of Assam to take possession of the flat within three months.

“The chief secretary of Maharashtra and the police commissioner of Mumbai are directed to provide necessary help to the chief secretary of Assam in taking possession of the flat,” the court order said. There had been allegations that the flat was gifted to her by Mahanta.

The special judge passed the order in connection with a case (8/2001) registered by the directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption, Assam police, on August 22, 2001. The chargesheet was filed on February 1 this year.

The case was registered on the basis of a news report published in The Telegraph on August 17, 2001, with a photograph of Bharali with Mahanta. The report alleged that Bharali, while serving as the assistant language officer in Assam Assembly from 1991 to 2002, had taken advantage of her controversial relationship with Mahanta and amassed both movable and immovable properties, including a huge bank balance, flats in Guwahati and Mumbai and expensive articles. She had resigned from her job in 2002.

During trial, the court found that during her service tenure of 11 years, she had drawn a salary of Rs 6,07,586 but owned properties worth Rs 53,06,697.

In 2002, she had bought a high-income group flat worth Rs 11,79,000 at Housefed Complex in Guwahati and another worth Rs 18 lakh at Andheri in Mumbai. She was also found to possess gold ornaments, expensive household articles and had substantial investments in the share market.

Bharali’s estranged husband, Monideep Das, who had appeared as a witness in the case, told the court that she had no property in her name at the time of their marriage and they were living separately since 2001.

Bharali refused to make any comment on the court order. “My lawyer will examine the court order and after that I will decide on my future course of action,” she told reporters outside the court.

Bharali had hogged headlines with a claim in a vernacular newspaper that Mahanta had married her in a secret ceremony at Vighneshwar Ganesh Mandir in Mumbai on March 11, 2001. Subsequently, one of her friends, Jayashree Thakkar, had claimed that she was present at the wedding and Mahanta had gifted a flat in Mumbai to Bharali.

Though Mahanta vehemently denied the allegations, it triggered a massive personal and political crisis for him.