Buddha Dhan Chakma, the lone BJP lawmaker in Mizoram, said he had been wrongfully accused of damaging his political career. He was sentenced to a year in prison and 12 others in a corruption case.
Mr. Chakma, free on a temporary bond while filing an appeal with a higher court, claimed that a year before filing the criminal case against him, he had returned the funds for which he was found guilty.
“Our pay advances were cleared, but the case’s investigating officer nevertheless charged us. Is it not similar to receiving two punishments for one crime? This is only a plot against us to damage our political reputations, particularly mine and Buddha Lila Chakma’s, “He said during a news conference on Wednesday in Aizawl.
The lawmaker and five members of the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC), including its Chief Executive Member (CEM) Buddha Lila Chakma of the governing MNF, were convicted on Monday by a special court for misappropriating 1.37 crore of money intended for development between 2013 and 2018. Seven former district council members were also among the prisoners. They took the money as advance payment.
The BJP MLA said that paying advance salary was standard in the council since the state’s previous Congress administration used to distribute monies in installments every four months throughout a fiscal year.
According to him, the advance payments were utilized to satisfy the meager needs of the regular people, and the money was quickly returned once the monthly paychecks were received.
According to Mr. Chakma, the executive secretaries who issued the advances were not subject to any political pressure or coercion; therefore, the whole procedure was carried out in good faith and with mutual understanding.
He said that the executive secretaries just learned of their obligations in July 2017, suggesting they may have inappropriately kept the account and taken some money from such recovery.
He said that the executive secretaries should be declared the “primary accused” and that “we quickly repaid all our salary advances and liabilities clearing certificates were provided to us.”
Mr. Chakma remained at the CEM until November of that year when he was elected to the state legislature and appointed a minister in the then-Lal Thanhawla-led Congress administration. Mr. Chakma had successfully run for the CADC elections in April 2013 for the second consecutive term on a Congress platform.
In August 2017, he left his position as a minister and Congress.
He joined the BJP shortly after his resignation, ran successfully in the 2018 state assembly elections, and became the first BJP lawmaker in the state.
Mr. Chakma said that he would appeal the ruling to the Gauhati High Court within 15 days and that he was certain to win.