Guwahati: Mizoram’s lone and first BJP MLA Buddha Dhan Chakma, along with 12 other leaders from the Chakma tribal group, was sentenced to a year in jail in a five-year-old graft case Monday. His conviction was the result of a complaint filed by Vanlalhmuaka, current president of the BJP state unit, who had been serving as party general secretary at the time.
The court of the special judge (Prevention of Corruption Act) in Mizoram sentenced the accused to a year of rigorous imprisonment. The 13 leaders, who were released on bail the same day, were convicted under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and levied a fine of Rs 10,000 each.
The case pertains to “misappropriation” of funds worth Rs 1.37 crore, meant for road infrastructure.
“It is shown from the evidence on record that the accused persons knowingly took the misappropriated fund of Special Plan Assistance (SPA in short) as advance salary from Chakma Autonomous District Council (sic),” Vanlalenmawia, the special judge who heard the case, stated in the judgment, which ThePrint has accessed.
The state government had, under the Special Plan Assistance, disbursed funds to the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) for the improvement of road infrastructure. The 13 leaders, as members of the district council (MDCs), misappropriated a total of Rs 1.37 crore, the judgment mentions.
B.D. Chakma was elected to the CADC on a Congress ticket. In 2013, he was appointed as a chief executive member of the CADC.
According to a Times of India report, soon after the judgment was pronounced, B.D. Chakma told reporters that he would appeal against it in the Gauhati High Court.
Vanlalhmuaka told ThePrint that the “complaint was given to me from the CADC while he [B.D. Chakma] was in the Congress”.
“I then submitted this to the governor to enquire into the matter and find the truth. The state government then took the matter forward. B.D. Chakma already paid back whatever surpluses were taken from the treasury. This is the mistake on the part of the administration of CADC.”
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‘Instructed to give salary advances from time to time’
The CADC had, under the Special Plan Assistance, received Rs 3.2 crore in 2014 and Rs 2.67 crore in 2015, the judgment says.
According to the judgment, the BJP’s state unit “submitted a representation to the Governor, Mizoram, alleging misappropriation of funds of Special Plan Assistance in the Chakma Autonomous District Council” in June 2017, and also requested that the executive committee of the CADC be dissolved.
Following Vanlalhmuaka’s complaint, the then governor constituted a one-man inquiry commission comprising Lawngtlai district’s deputy commissioner at the time, Dr A. Muthamma. The CADC falls under Lawngtlai district.
“The deputy commissioner found that the development works amounting to Rs 114.20 lakh had been misappropriated by making payment to 10 nos. of MDCs and 1 ex-MDC,” the judgment states.
It also notes the statement of Digamber Chakma — who had served as the executive secretary in the CADC — according to which he was “instructed by the executive committee headed by the chief executive member (CEM) to give salary advances to the MDCs from time to time including the accused persons”.
“As a result, a few developmental schemes could not be completed in time because more than 80-90 lakhs of rupees had to be advanced out to the members during my period due to the official influence of the members of the council (sic),” Digamber further said in the confessional statement.
Additionally, a second official, Purnendu Bikash Chakma, who also served as the executive secretary after Digamber, also said that he was made to pay advances.
“It is evident from the records of deposition that the Special Plan Assistance was drawn by the accused persons for their own use,” the court judgment says.
According to the judgment, in their defence, the accused stated that they had already refunded the salary advance to the executive secretary “before submission of the chargesheet” in the case.
In 2013, B.D. Chakma had fought and won from Tuichawng constituency on a Congress ticket. He was subsequently appointed as minister of state. Four years later, massive protests by student organisations against four Chakma students being allotted seats in medical colleges led the Mizoram government to cancel their admissions.
Weeks later, B.D. Chakma resigned and quit the Congress in protest, and joined the BJP soon after. In the 2018 elections, he became the first BJP assembly poll candidate to win in the state.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)
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