Aizawl: Mizoram’s lone BJP legislator Buddha Dhan Chakma, who was recently sentenced to a year jail term in a graft case along with 12 other Chakma leaders, said that he has been falsely implicated to malign his political career. 

He claimed that they have refunded all the money they were convicted for a year before a complaint was filed and a criminal case registered against them.

Earlier on Monday, the court of a special judge (Prevention of Corruption Act) in Aizawl had slapped one-year imprisonment and fines against BD Chakma and five incumbent Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) members of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), including the council Chief Executive Member (CEM) Buddha Lila Chakma for misappropriating funds worth Rs 137.10 lakh specifically earmarked for development works in the CADC during 2013-2018.

They drew the amount as pay advances. Seven former members of the district council were also among the convicts.

The special court, however, granted them a 90-day interim bail when the convicts pleaded that they would challenge the judgement in a higher court.

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“In spite of clearing our pay advances, the Case IO charge-sheeted us. Is it not like double punishment for a single case? This is nothing but a conspiracy against us to malign our political images, especially me and Buddha Lila Chakma,” Chakma told a news conference in Aizawl, adding that the allegations were totally baseless.

Chakma had successfully contested the CADC polls in April 2013 for the second consecutive term on a Congress ticket and became the CEM of the council until November that year, when he was elected to the state assembly and was made a minister of state in the erstwhile Lal Thanhawla led Congress government. 

He resigned as a minister and quit Congress in August 2017. Soon after his resignation that year he joined BJP and successfully contested the state assembly polls for the second consecutive term in 2018 to become the first-ever BJP legislator in the state. 

Significantly, Chakma was a Congress minister when an inquiry commission probed the alleged irregularities in CADC at the behest of the state government following a representation by then BJP general secretary Vanlalhmuaka (now the party president) in 2017.

He has already joined the BJP when a criminal case was registered against them (all convicts) following the FIR, which was filed based on the report of the enquiry commission in April 2018.
Congress was in power in the state then. Ironically, Buddha Lila Chakma (now MNF leader) was a Congress member when the criminal case was registered.

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BD Chakma claimed that doling out advance salaries was a regular practice in the council as the state government used to release funds in instalments every four months in a fiscal year during those years.The advance salaries used specifically for meeting the petty demands of the people in their constituencies used to be refunded immediately once they received their monthly salary, he said.

He claimed that the whole process was done in good faith and mutual understanding as no political influence or coercion was put on the executive secretaries, who released the advances. 

While alleging that the executive secretaries that they might have improperly maintained the account and siphoned away some amount out of such recoveries, Chakma said that they came to know about their liabilities only in July 2017 after the state government informed them.

“We immediately refunded all our pay advances and liabilities clearance certificates were issued to us,” he said, adding that the executive secretaries should be made the “prime accused.’

He alleged that the investigating officer, in spite of knowing, during the investigation, that the pay advances were refunded by the accused well before the FIR was lodged, he proceeded with the case and submitted a charge sheet in April 2019. He further alleged that the executive secretaries were forced to accuse them of using coercion upon them during the interrogation.

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However, the court upheld that the 13 accused were found guilty for offences committed under section 13(1)(d) read with 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 after a perusal of investigation reports, court proceedings and other records. 

BD Chakma said that they would challenge the judgement at the Gauhati High Court within 15 days from now. 
He was confident of winning the case in the higher court. 

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