Tainted corporator may lose her post; Ball in state govt's court

Bhayandar: Found guilty for accepting bribe money, BJP’s Varsha Bhanushali now stares at her imminent disqualification as corporator from the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC). However, unlike disqualifications made by the municipal commissioner in caste-related ambiguities, it is the state government authorities who have been empowered to take a final call to expel convicted corporators.

On Wednesday, the district session court, Thane convicted Bhanushali under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and sentenced her to five years' rigorous imprisonment (RI) in a five-year-old bribery case. She will also pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh, failing which she will have to spend six more months in jail. Bhanushali was immediately taken into custody and sent to jail.

Although the convict has a window to appeal convictions, any member who is found guilty of misconduct or unbecoming conduct for his post while discharging his/her duties can be removed from membership only by the state government, revealed an MBMC official who added that once the civic body receives the judicial orders, it can only table a proposal recommending disqualification of the convicted member.

Bhanushali was caught red-handed on June 6, 2014 by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) while accepting Rs 50,000 as first installment of Rs 1.6 lakh bribe money demanded to secure permission for raising the height of some industrial units in Bhayandar (east).

Interestingly, despite getting caught in the graft act, Bhanushali not only managed to ensure her re-nomination as a BJP candidate but also went on to win the civic polls from ward number 23 (b) in August 2017. The local BJP leadership is yet to expel her from the party after her conviction.

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