Chandigarh: Punjab Agriculture Minister Tota Singh was found guilty in a corruption case by a trial court in Mohali adjoining Chandigarh on Saturday. He has been sentenced to one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 30,000.
However, Tota Singh will not be arrested till July 2 by which time he can file an appeal in the superior court.
Tota Singh is the second minister in the newly formed Akali Government who has been convicted by a trial court. Bibi Jagir Kaur, who resigned as minister after her conviction is in jail in Kapurthala.
Kaur was sentenced on March 30, 2012 by a Special CBI Court in Patiala. She was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment on counts of forcible abortion, wrongful confinement, abduction and criminal conspiracy in the mysterious death of her daughter Harpreet Kaur in April 2000. However, she was absolved of the charges of murder of her daughter. Three others were also convicted in the case. Jagir Kaur was forced to resign as Punjab's minister for rural water supply and sanitation and defence services after her conviction and arrest.
Singh was present in the court at the time of pronouncement of the verdict. Singh's plea for bail was allowed by the court to enable him to approach a higher court. The court said that in case the minster defaults in paying the fine he would have to further undergo six months in prison. However, the minister immediately paid the fine.
Punjab Vigilance Bureau had in 2002 booked Singh for possessing property worth Rs 10 crore, which was stated to be disproportionate to his known sources of income during the SAD-BJP regime from 1997-2002.
There were allegations of disproportionate assets compared to known sources of income, misuse of official phone and vehicles against Tota Singh while he was the education minister in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government.
While the case of disproportionate assets compared to known sources of income could not be established, he was found guilty of misuse of official vehicle and of tampering with its log book. Though he was present at the trial court he refused to comment on the case.
Another case in which Tota Singh committed irregularities pertaining to teacher recruitment and printing stationery is also to come up in the Mohali court on May 9.
The Opposition immediately opened a front against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and demanded that Tota Singh should be dismissed immediately from the Punjab cabinet.
Leader of the Opposition Sunil Jakhar said Badal should own moral responsibility for the conviction of the Agriculture Minister. He demanded that Tota Singh should resign immediately. "Another one bites the dust," he said.