Five people were convicted by a local court for selling a piece of land belonging to a church in Madhopur, Pathankot, by fraudulent means. Additional Sessions Judge Rajiv Kalra, on Monday, convicted Stiphen Bhatti, Rockus Sandhu, Sat Pal, Parkash Masih and Mohinder Kumar, sentencing them to jail for three years and also fined them rs 25,000 each.
However, the court acquitted three other accused, giving them benefit of doubt. The verdict came on a complaint by former Gurdaspur deputy commissioner KAP Sinha. According to Additional Public Prosecutor Ambika Gupta,Sinha had on January 23, 2003, filed a complaint against the Pathankot tehsildar to financial commissioner (revenue) Punjab, for allegedly sanctioning mutation of 116 kanals 9 marlas ofland owned by the government, and cultivated by Amritsar Diocesan Trust Association (ADTA). A church was also constructed on the same piece of land.
According to historians, the church was built in 1872. One Babu Masih Bishop of ADTA had also filed an application in this connection with police. A case was registered against the accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 12/13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Gupta said the high court vide its orders dated November 23, 1992, had stayed the sale of property of church situated at Madhopur, Pathankot, along with other properties of the ADTA.
Police said Rockus Sandhu and Stiphen Bhatti had gotten registered a bogus general power of attorney on August 2, 2001. On the basis of the fake attorney, the church property was sold by the accused for a meagre consideration of Rs 29, 25, 000.
However, Pathankot tehsildar Subhash Padam, one of the prime accused, had already been discharged in this case.