Kolkata: The Trinamul Raniganj MLA, Mohammad Sohrab Ali, was today sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in a two-decade-old railway scrap theft case, raising the prospect of his disqualification as a legislator.
Anindya Sen, the seventh judicial magistrate of the Asansol court who gave the verdict, granted Sohrab a month’s reprieve to allow him to appeal in a higher court.
Under Section 8 of the Representation of Peoples Act, any legislator convicted for certain offences, such as under the Prevention of Corruption Act, or convicted of rape, murder or other serious offences is automatically disqualified for six years. An immunity earlier granted under Section 8(4) of the act, using which a convicted legislator could continue in office after filing an appeal in the high court, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
The first-time MLA from Burdwan’s Raniganj said he had been framed by the CPM and would appeal the verdict.
Legal experts said even if the higher court overturns the conviction, Sohrab would have to contest an election to become a legislator. He cannot be reinstated.
After Sohrab was produced in court in the afternoon, magistrate Sen pronounced two years’ imprisonment and a Rs 5,000 fine in the case of a railway scrap theft lodged by Railway Protection Force in 1995.
Police sources said Sohrab, a known scrap dealer in the Burnpur-Hirapur belt, has six more criminal cases pending against him and has been out on bail.
The magistrate asked Sohrab’s lawyer Jagadindra Ganguly if the MLA would appeal before a higher court. When told that he would, the magistrate granted him bail for a month.
Sohrab said he was framed by the CPM after he contested as an Independent for the Asansol Municipal Corporation in 1995 and defeated the CPI’s Tahir Hussain. “Since then, the CPM has targeted me,” he said.
Trinamul today distanced itself from the case, whose verdict has come when the party is gearing up for the restructured Greater Asansol Municipal Corporation next month. Partha Chatterjee, the Trinamul secretary-general, said: “When this case happened, he was not a part of Trinamul (the party was formed in 1998). This has got nothing to do with us.”
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said: “The MLA concerned automatically stands disqualified following his conviction. He is no longer an MLA and the Speaker should take note of it.”
Asked about what he would do, Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee was non-committal.
“I will have to go through the learned court’s order regarding the MLA’s conviction as well as the order of the Supreme Court before acting on the matter,” he said.