An appeal filed by former Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh against one-year imprisonment awarded to him by additional district and sessions court in Mohali for misusing an official vehicle has been admitted by the Punjab and Haryana high court for hearing with regular cases as per its turn.
However, the court of justice Ritu Bahri has issued notice of motion to the Punjab government on his bail application for May 17.
On May 5, the Mohali court had found Tota Singh guilty of misusing an official vehicle of Punjab School Education Board during his stint as the education minister during 1997-2002, causing a huge loss to the board, and handed him one-year prison term.
However, the court acquitted him of more serious charges of possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. Tota Singh had been granted bail till June 5 by the trial court on the same day.
In his bail application, filed in the high court, Tota Singh has mentioned that his appeal petition was likely to take a long time to be heard and he was facing prosecution since 2002. He further added that he had been in custody for two months during the trial followed by bail later and there was no allegation of misuse of bail concession by him.
However, in his petition challenging the conviction and sentence awarded to him on the charge that the official car (PB-27-5105), which was subsequently replaced by another car (PB-65-2710) was misused either by the then education minister or his family members, the former minister stated that the trial court had erred in passing the judgment.
He mentioned that even the prosecution witness Veena Dada, an employeee of the education department, had rightly stated that "alleged statement made under Section 161 of CrPC(before the police) was wrong and in fact she had been using the said car for official purpose."
It was further added that, "Even otherwise, if she had stated that the said entries were counter-signed by her at the asking of the education minister, then the said version would not been believed as, firstly, it was against the official record and, secondly, she never made any complaint to any authority that she was compelled to counter-sign the said entries."
Tota Singh mentioned that the trial court had given the judgment based on "unfair and tainted investigation". He stated that though he was entitled to unlimited petrol/fuel but the car in question was not allotted to him and was being used for official work by officers of the department.