1 month jail for ex-CM - Sikkim High Court asks Bhandari to surrender today

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 10.08.11
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Gangtok, Aug. 9: Sikkim High Court today sentenced three-term chief minister of the state Nar Bahadur Bhandari to jail for one month on corruption charges, upholding a conviction order passed by a CBI court in a 27-year-old graft case.

However, the sentence of simple imprisonment of six months passed by the lower court on October 25, 2008, was reduced to one month jail term with a fine of Rs 5,000 by acting Chief Justice S.P. Wangdi.

Bhandari, now 70, has been asked by the judge to surrender before the special judge (Prevention of Corruption Act) by 10.30 am tomorrow.

Bhandari, seizing the opportunity to score political points and public sympathy, said after the verdict that he was not going on appeal and would serve out the sentence. Bhandari is presently the president of the Sikkim Pradesh Congress.

Bhandari said he was upset with the Congress high command in Delhi because it had done nothing to rein in the CBI, which was prosecuting him. “It is a conspiracy of the Congress party that controls the CBI that has landed me in this situation. I can also launch a regional party once I serve out the sentence,” Bhandari said today.

But sources said Bhandari would make the “best of the situation” tomorrow at the time of his surrender and try to get “as much publicity as possible to gain the sympathy of the people”.

The former chief minister had been charged with defalcation of funds by the CBI under the Prevention of Corruption Act in connection with rural water supply schemes. The schemes were being implemented by the state rural development department during 1983-84 when Bhandari was serving his second tenure as chief minister.

Bhandari had moved the high court after the CBI court found him guilty and sentenced him to six months in prison.

Justice Wandgi, in his order today, observed that the prison term was being modified keeping in mind that “more than 27 years have passed since the commission of the offence and during the interregnum the appellant had no doubt suffered in body and mind”.

Sources in the court said the CBI started the investigations in 1984, soon after the Congress high command forced Bhandari to step down from chief ministership and appointed his finance minister B.B. Gooroong as head of the government. It was Gooroong who had asked the CBI to probe the allegations of corruption against Bhandari. Gooroong later joined the Sikkim Democratic Front.

A peeved Bhandari told journalists on the court premises that he would not appeal in the Supreme Court.

“I will go to jail for Sikkim and the Sikkimese people. I will stay in jail and write a book and the day I come out of prison after a month, I will go deeply into politics,” he said.

Bhandari had served a fortnight in jail in 1978 when the L.D. Kazi government slapped anti-national charges against him.