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SC revives land grab case against ex-minister of HP
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 2
The Supreme Court today resurrected the land grab case against Asha Kumari, former Education Minister of Himachal Pradesh, after indicting the state High Court for quashing the charges framed against her by the special judge, Chamba.

Asha Kumari, ex-education minister
Asha Kumari, ex-education minister

Asha and her husband Brijender Singh (now dead) had been charged with grabbing more than 60 bighas of government forest land worth several crores of rupees at Mauza Jandrighat Bhatyat (now Chuwari) in Chamba district over several years (between 1977 and 1994) by tampering with government records and fabricating wills with the connivance of revenue officials.

The trial court of special judge at Chamba had framed charges against Asha and Singh on January 4, 2005 on the basis of an FIR registered by the Vigilance Department on December 15, 2001.

The two accused, however, got the charges quashed by the HC on the grounds that they were not heard by the trial court properly. The HC also transferred the case from Chamba to the court of special judge, Kangra at Dharamshala on the apprehension expressed by Asha that she would not get a fair trial at Chamba.

In today’s verdict, the SC Bench comprising Justices Swatanter Kumar and Ranjana Prakash Desai also shifted the trial back to Chamba. In public interest, the SC had entertained an appeal by one Ashish Chadha, who had approached it after the original complainant in the case had died.

Chadha has been the elected Municipal Councilor of the Dhalhousie Municipal Committee. The Supreme Court refused to accept Asha’s contention that the appeal was the result of a political rivalry against her as she was a Congress leader.

“While remanding the matter (to Kangra), the HC has expressed that there is no prima facie case against the first respondent (Asha), thus frustrating the purpose of remand order. We therefore feel that interference by this Court is necessary. We do not think that the petition is politically motivated,” the Supreme Court held.

“In our opinion, the high court has completely misdirected itself in reversing the trial court’s order framing charge. The high court’s judgment is tainted with legal infirmities and has resulted in miscarriage of justice,” the apex court noted, pointing out a series of aspects on which the high court had gone wrong.

Instead of leaving the final adjudication to the trial court, the high court “unnecessarily observed that the charge is vague. It overstepped its revisional jurisdiction….The high court, in our opinion, wrongly transferred the case as desired by Respondent no. 1” though her apprehension was “baseless,” the SC ruled.

Such transfers would have a demoralising effect on the trial courts, the Supreme Court Bench explained.





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