KOLKATA:In a landmark judgment by a district court in West Bengal, ruling Trinamool Congress legislator Soharb Ali was on Tuesday convicted for theft of Railway properties and stands to lose his membership in the state Assembly.
The Asansol court in Burdwan district held Sohrab Ali, TMC MLA from Ranigunje, and three others guilty of stealing properties belonging to the Indian Railways. The judge sentenced all of them to two years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 each or six more months in jail if they failed to pay it.
Sohrab Ali and the three others were accused way back in 1995 for stealing railway properties and the Government Railway Police (GRP) had lodged a case in this connection.
The GP had even issued a lookout notice against the accused.
The judge, however, allowed them to appeal before the High Court within three months and granted bail to the Trinamool Congress MLA bail on a bond of Rs 10,000 following a plea from his lawyer.
However, according to the ruling of the Supreme Court Bench of Justices A K Pattanaik and Sudhangshujyoti Mukherjee in June 2013, any elected member of any state Assembly or Parliament, if convicted for two years or more to imprisonment, will automatically lose his membership.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee remarked: “He will automatically lose his membership in the state Assembly. It’s unprecedented in West Bengal. People should be conscious and think before voting to elect their representatives.”
The conviction created a flutter in political circles as no state legislator has ever been convicted on criminal charges.
CPM politburo member and Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim remarked, “When Sohrab Ali went to file his nomination papers, posters had been put up by the GRP stating ‘wanted criminal’ and beside those posters were ones of the TMC with Mamata’s photograph asking people to vote for him. Mamata knowingly nominated him to develop the in house expertise of criminality and spread her influence in that belt.”
“We welcome this verdict as such elements are criminalising politics in the state,” he said.
Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya said, “ Sohrab Ali is a known criminal who had paid money to a TMC leader for seat during the Assembly polls.”