Shimla, Aug 14 (IANS) A court in Himachal Pradesh Tuesday framed charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and forgery against Congress leader and former minister Asha Kumari, accused of grabbing government forest land worth several crores of rupees by tampering revenue records.
Chamba's Special Judge Chirag Bhanu Singh prima facie found case against Asha Kumari, a former education minister in the previous Congress government in the state from 2003-05, and listed the case for recording of evidences from Dec 3 to 7.
Special Public Prosecutor Jiwan Lal Sharma told IANS that besides Asha Kumari, there are 12 other accused, including her late husband Brijender Singh. They have been charged on five counts in the case dating back to 1998.
"Since Asha Kumari was not present in the court on earlier occasions, the charges were not framed against her," he added.
On Jan 4, 2005, the then Special Judge P.D. Goel had charged Asha Kumari and others with grabbing more than 60 bighas of government forest land near Dalhousie in Chamba district by tampering government records and fabricating wills with the connivance of revenue officials.
In December last year, the Supreme Court ruled that cheating and criminal conspiracy charges against Asha Kumari cannot be quashed.
Setting aside the Himachal Pradesh High Court order, a division bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai had observed: "In our opinion, the high court has completely misdirected itself in reversing the trial court's order framing charge."
"The high court's judgment is tainted with legal infirmities and has resulted in miscarriage of justice," they observed, upholding the special judge's Jan 4, 2005 order of framing charges and directing him to proceed further.
Challenging the trial court order, Asha Kumari had moved high court which granted her relief, by setting aside the Chamba court's order on the grounds that she was denied an opportunity of being properly heard.