In the first-ever conviction of a member of the present government in Punjab, a special court here has sentenced former Minister and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Sohan Singh Thandal to three years' rigorous imprisonment in a corruption and disproportionate assets case.

Special Judge Rajinder Aggarwal also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Shiromani Akali Dal MLA from Mahilpur in Hoshiarpur district.

The case against Thandal, who is the Chief Parliamentary Secretary for the Agriculture Department, was registered by the previous Amarinder Singh government over eight years back.

The opposition Congress has demanded immediate dismissal of Thandal from the post and also from the primary membership of Akali Dal.

While delivering the order on Monday, the court said that Thandal would undergo additional rigorous imprisonment for four months if he fails to pay the fine. He also ruled that the period of imprisonment undergone during the investigation, enquiry or trial be set off as per law.

Complying with the order, Thandal furnished a bail bond of Rs 25,000 and a surety bond of like amount.

The Special Judge then granted him interim bail and ordered suspension of the sentence till June 1 to allow him to challenge his conviction before the High Court.

The judge said, “I am of the view that in the instant case difference between assets of the accused and his known sources of income has been found to be Rs.3,62,700, which was over 10 per cent of his total receipts found to be Rs.31,46,254. This was despite the fact that his household expenditure has been claimed as 40 per cent of his salary and even loan transactions projected by him have been accepted by the court. Moreover, the evidence on the file shows that at the time of search of his house, US currency amounting to Rs. 99,680 was recovered, which has not been mentioned in the charge sheet filed by the prosecution.”

In its 29-page judgment, Justice Aggarwal concluded, “Under these circumstances, this court is satisfied that from the evidence on the file, it is proved that accused has committed offence of criminal misconduct as his assets/expenditure are disproportionate to his known sources of income and he has not been able to give satisfactory account for the same.

“I am of the view that no ground for any leniency is made out. Corruption is such a malady which has gripped our entire public administration system. The act of indulging in corruption by a representative of the public in the democratic set-up is a serious offence,” the judge ruled.

The case dating back to January 29, 2003, was registered by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau in Mohali.

Thandal, who was a Cabinet Minister in Punjab during the previous Badal regime from 1997-2002, was accused of accumulating wealth by indulging in corruption and acquiring properties in his own name and in the names of others, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income.

He was arrested and later released on bail. On completion of investigation, a charge sheet and supplementary charge sheet were filed against him.

The court found that no charge was made out against a co-accused, Nirman Singh, who was ordered to be discharged on May 8, 2007.

Thandal said, “I will abide by the law and will challenge my conviction before the High Court.”

Thandal, a three-time MLA, said he has no plans to resign.

Official spokesman of the Akali Dal and Punjab Chief Minister adviser Daljit Singh Cheema said a decision on Thandal will be taken after going through the court order.

‘Dismiss Thandal'

Demanding Thandal's dismissal, Punjab Congress spokesman Sukhpal Singh Khaira said, “Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal must without further delay dismiss Thandal after his conviction in a graft case.”

The Badals must follow the parameters set by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi while dealing with people indulging in corruption, he said pointing out that sacked CWG Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi was suspended within hours of his arrest and registration of a graft case against him. - PTI