A special court, on Monday, acquitted Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga in a 12-year-old disproportionate assets and misuses of power cases, a court official said on Tuesday.
A criminal case had been filed against Zoramthanga for allegedly misusing his power as a public servant to get issued angle iron posts and goat proof wire mesh from agriculture department for his farm at Aii puk area in Sihphir near Aizawl in 2007 when he was the chief minister.
The case was filed based on a complaint filed by two organisations- People Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram (PRISM), the erstwhile anti-corruption watchdog, and Mizoram Upa Pawl (Senior citizens association) in July 2009.
The state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had filed an additional charge sheet alleging that Zoramthanga held assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The charge sheet said that in 2003 Zoramthanga had declared in his affidavit as to have owned assets worth Rs 54.18 lakh, which grew to over Rs 1.38 crore, including various immovable properties showing massive growth in cash and property assets without any known source of income at the time of 2008 elections.
In the first case, Vanlalenmawia, a special judge under the Prevention of Corruption Act, said that during the trial it was found that the agricultural department materials were legally issued for the benefit of needy farmers at a 50 per cent subsidy, the court official said.
The judge concluded that though the allegation made against the accused is that he had misappropriated government money for procurement of fencing for Aii Puk Farms, there is a provision for giving out those fencing materials for the benefits on subsidy for the benefit of needy farmers under the scheme known as Assistance to Small Marginal farmers, he said.
“In fact, under the scheme, those farming implements could be issued to Aii Puk Farmers‘ Association on 50% subsidy or even free of cost depending upon the availability of the materials. Mention may be made in this regard that the Aii Puk Farmers‘ Association applied to the Agriculture & Minor Irrigation department for Angle Iron posts and G.P. wire mesh and the same were given to the Association,” the judgment order said.
The Aii Puk Farmers‘ Association utilized the materials received from the Agricultural & Minor Irrigation department for fencing along the main road to protect their crops from theft, it said.
The court was of the view that the accused had not acted in violation of any law in helping those Aii Puk farmers as the CM at that point of time.
“Therefore, the prosecution has not proved that the accused had abused his position as CM or Agriculture Minister by misappropriating government money for procurement of fencing materials for Aii Puk Farms at Neihbawih, Sihphir,” it said.
The court also did not find sufficient evidence to prove the accused had assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, and therefore he is not liable to be convicted under Section 13(2) of the PC Act, 1988.
The court said that at least seven immovable assets of Zoramthanga were examine, of which five assets were prior to the check period (2003 – 2008).
It said that the total salary of Zoramthanga as chief minister during the check period comes to Rs 12,52,500 while that of his wife Roneihsangi, a civil servant, during the said period amounted to Rs 2,05,285. Hence their total income during the check period comes to Rs 14,57,785.
The court also examined life insurance of the accused and said it has failed to find that the insurance accounts were opened within the check period.
“The accused is acquitted on the benefit of doubt for offence punishable under Section 13(1)(d)(i)/(ii) and Section (13)(1)(e) read with Section 13 (2) of P.C. Act, 1988,” it said
Zoramthanga had earlier become the state chief minister for two consecutive terms from 1998-2008.
He won the last assembly polls in 2018 and became the chief minister for the third time.