Gujarat Congress protests disqualification of MLA convicted in mining case

Ahmedabad: The opposition Congress in Gujarat staged statewide demonstrations on Wednesday in protest against disqualification of its legislator Bhagwanbhai Barad, who has been convicted in an old illegal mining case, accusing the BJP of acting in a partisan manner.

State Assembly Speaker Rajendra Trivedi disqualified Barad, an MLA from Talala constituency in Junagadh district in Saurashtra region, after he was convicted in a 1995 case on March 1.

A court in Sutrapada in the district found him guilty of illegally mining limestone mineral worth over Rs 250 crore from “gauchar” (pastoral) land of Sutrapada town.

While sentencing Barad to 32 months in jail, the court also granted the MLA bail the same day and permitted him to move higher courts to appeal against the verdict.

State Congress chief spokesperson Manish Doshi told IANS: “Not only statewide demonstrations, the Congress would not take this lying down and also fight out legally. We would expose the double standards of the BJP. There are several tainted leaders in the ruling party but nothing happens to them.”

He said the court gave Bhagwan Barad time to move the higher courts and action was taken against him before he did so.

The Office of the Speaker, however, cited a Supreme Court judgment of July 2013 in the notification it issued disqualifying Barad as the MLA.

The apex court had struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which allowed MLAs or members of Parliament three months’ time to move higher courts to seek stay on the conviction. The section gave protection against immediate disqualification.

With the disqualification of Barad, the Congress strength in the Gujarat stands at 74 in the 182-member Assembly.