SIKKIM NEWS: HC upholds Bhandari clean chit

SIKKIM NEWS: HC upholds Bhandari clean chit – none for Chamling & co  yet ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Aug. 3: Sikkim High Court today dismissed an appeal filed by the CBI against the clean chit given by a lower court to former chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari in a disproportionate assets case.

Chief Justice Barin Ghosh pronounced the dismissal of the CBI appeal and upheld the acquittal given by the lower court to Bhandari.

The CBI had filed a chargesheet in 2001, alleging that Bhandari had amassed assets of Rs 53.23 lakh disproportionate to his known source of income while he was the chief minister of Sikkim. The period that had come under the CBI scanner was from January 1, 1989 to May 17, 1994.

A designated CBI court in Namchi had acquitted Bhandari on March 21, 2007, of the charges of amassing disproportionate assets and fabricating evidence, prompting the agency to file an appeal in the high court the same year against the acquittal.

Today, dismissing the CBI plea, the high court observed in its order: “In the circumstances, taking into consideration the judgment under appeal and grievances highlighted in relation thereto in the appeal, there is no scope of interference with the judgement under appeal…”

The high court also dismissed the charge of fabricating evidence brought by the CBI. The agency had accused Bhandari of misleading it over the actual construction cost of his Ranipool house built in 1990.

A happy Bhandari described the high court’s verdict a victory for the Sikkimese. “The verdict has gone in favour of the Sikkimese. The CBI case had been ordered by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front government. Today they have lost and the Sikkimese have won,” said Bhandari.

Bhandari, the president of Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee, had arrived in the court early with few of his close confidants and advocates, B.R. Pradhan and K.T. Bhutia.

A three-time chief minister, Bhandari has been convicted in two other corruption cases by a designated CBI court in Gangtok. He had been convicted and sentenced by the court in 2007 and 2008. He has appealed in the high court against the convictions.

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