In a setback to Shiv Sena, a special court here sentenced the party’s candidate from Shirdi, Babanrao Gholap, to three years' rigorous imprisonment and Rs. one lakh fine for possessing assets disproportionate to the known source of income. The court also sentenced the politician’s wife to three years’ imprisonment.
The verdict comes three days after social activist Anna Hazare's letter to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, seeking reconsideration of Mr. Gholap's candidature.
Mr. Hazare had alleged in his letter that the politician faced grave corruption charges, and should not be allowed to represent a party, which claims to uphold Chhatrapati Shivaji's ideology.
On Friday, Mr. Gholap and his wife were sentenced by a special Anti-Corruption Bureau court in a 1999 complaint. In the year 1999, they were found to have nearly Rs. one crore worth disproportionate assets, which were 194 per cent of their total income. “They had 16 accounts and fixed deposits in various banks, six different vehicles, ten plots of land and flats in the state,” Investigating Officer Ramesh Mahale told The Hindu.
After the conviction and the sentencing, the couple immediately appealed for bail, which was granted on the bail-bond of Rs 25,000 each.
Mr. Gholap has been Sena's legislator from Nashik for over a decade, and has several corruption charges against him. In 1996, he had filed a defamation case against Mr. Hazare for making graft allegations against him. Mr. Hazare had to face imprisonment for 14 days due to this case.
On the basis of those allegations, a political activist named Milind Yavatkar had approached a local court in 1999, lodging complaint against Mr. Gholap and his wife. The probe was handed to Mumbai Police Anti-Corruption Bureau. The agency, on completion of its investigation, had filed a chargesheet against Mr Gholap and his wife way back in 2001.
The police said that the politician and his wife had failed to co-operate with the authorities during the investigation. "After our investigation, we gave them a chance to explain their assets. We sent them a detailed questionnaire. But they just did not respond to it," retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Suresh Bhalekar told The Hindu. After his retirement, senior police inspector Ramesh Mahale took charge of the probe.
Till date, all the disproportionate assets of the politician and his wife lie sealed. The duo has been convicted under sections 13(1)(e), 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and section 109 of the Indian Penal Code.