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GTA member gets bail in all cases

- Prabha Chhetri set to be released from Siliguri jail, no fresh charge slapped on her

Darjeeling, Dec. 5: A GTA executive sabha member, Prabha Chhetri, was granted bail today in the seventh and the last case she had been implicated in, paving the way for her release from jail with the state government slapping no fresh charges on her.

Prabha will be the first of the 10 GTA members, arrested during the latest phase of the Gorkhaland agitation, to be released from jail.

Freedom eluded the 10 because the government used to slap fresh charges on them whenever they were granted bail in any case.

Rajen Thapa, defence lawyer, said: “The court of the additional session court, Kurseong, today granted bail to Prabha Chhetri in a case related to burning down a shop of a Trinamul supporter at Latpanchar (in Kurseong) on June 19, 2013. Since there are no more cases against her, she will be freed as soon as the formalities for her release are completed.”

Prabha had been arrested on August 18 from Kurseong and over a period of three-and-a-half months, she had been charged in seven separate cases. “She had obtained bail in other cases earlier,” said Bedyan Gurung,” defence lawyer.

“The bail had been earlier rejected by the additional chief judicial magistrate’s court in Kurseong and today, we moved a higher court, which granted bail to Prabha. We contested that Prabha be granted bail as she is a woman and has been in judicial custody for long and her husband is ill and there is no one to look after him. There was no objection to our prayer (from the government side),” Bedyan added.

Prabha is in charge of the women and child development department and is the face of the Nari Morcha in Kurseong. She represents Tindharia in GTA.

Prabha’s bail, observers believe, is a signal that the state government doesn’t want to antagonise the Morcha leadership further. “Police might not pursue fresh cases against the arrested GTA leaders and they are also likely to be released from jail soon,” said an observer.

Even though there was a thaw in the relations between the state government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha following the chief minister’s recent visit to the hills, the police continued to implicate party leaders in various cases.

On November 27, the police slapped a fresh case of arson against six jailed GTA members, prompting the Morcha’s Kalimpong MLA Harka Bahadur Chhetri to term the state’s move as “humiliation”.

The MLA even suggested that time had come for Morcha chief Bimal Gurung to ask all three party MLAs to tender their resignations.

“It is nothing but humiliation by the state government as they are forcing us to act like beggars. How long will we go to them with the same issue just to hear false assurances?” Harka had then asked.

Harka had been part of the Morcha team that took part in a bipartite meeting with the Bengal government in Calcutta on November 20 and the tripartite talks with the state and the Centre the next day. The Morcha requested the withdrawal of cases against party leaders during the talks in Calcutta.

Seshmani Gurung, another defence lawyer, said Prabha had been charged in seven cases over the past three-and-a-half-months.

“Among the remaining nine GTA Sabha members, Binay Tamang is still to get bail in two cases, Anit Thapa in three cases, Yogendra Rai in two cases, Anush Thapa in two cases, Pranay Thapa in one case, Arun Sinji in two cases, Mahendra Pradhan in one case, Nima Tamang in two cases and Kalyan Dewan in one case,” said Seshmani.

Taranga Pandit, another defence lawyer and also a GTA executive sabha member, said: “Prabha was granted bail without any condition on a bail bond of Rs 3,000.”

Prabha was not produced in court today and is currently lodged at the Siliguri correctional home.

Roshan Giri, general secretary of the Morcha, today said the party was happy with the development.

“We are hopeful that other GTA members and supporters who are still behind bars will also get bail soon,” said Giri.

Sources in the party said bail application for Kalyan Dewan, who is also an executive sabha member and the party’s vice-president, would be moved again on December 7 in the only case in which he had not yet received bail.