Gujarat court suspends ex-minister Vipul Chaudhary’s jail sentence, gives bail
Additional district and sessions judge CM Pawar also ordered release of the 15 persons convicted in the case on bail on producing a surety of ₹50,000 each
AHMEDABAD: A sessions court in Gujarat’s Mehsana on Friday suspended the seven-year jail sentence handed down to former Gujarat minister Vipul Chaudhary, 57, and 14 others in a cheating case that allegedly led to a ₹22.5 crore loss to a dairy in a 2014 case.
Additional district and sessions judge CM Pawar also ordered the release of the 15 persons convicted in the case on bail on producing a surety of ₹50,000.
Chaudhary, a prominent face of Gujarat’s cooperative sector, was convicted on July 13 along with 14 others for causing a loss of ₹22.5 crore to Mehsana District Milk Producers Federation, popularly known as Dudhsagar Dairy, over its decision to send fodder to neighbouring Maharashtra.
“The court has suspended the lower court’s sentence and allowed Chaudhary and others to be released on bail. Chaudhary must surrender his passport and he can’t leave the country till the case is going on,” said advocate RN Barot, who represented Chaudhary in the case.
Chaudhary decided in his capacity as the Dudhsagar Dairy’s chairman to send cattle feed to drought-hit Maharashtra in 2014. The Gujarat government alleged the decision was taken without the requisite approval of the dairy board or any tender process.
Dudhsagar Dairy is India’s largest co-operative dairy and is part of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which markets its products under the Amul brand name.
Chaudhary was the diary’s chairman between 2005 and 2016.
Chaudhary was a minister in Keshubhai Patel-led government in 1995. In 1996, he sided with Shankersinh Vaghela who rebelled against Patel and formed the government with the Congress’s help. Chaudhary served in the Vaghela government as a minister as well. Chaudhary returned to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2001 and formed a socio-political outfit in 2022.
Gujarat’s anti-corruption branch arrested Chaudhary in September last year. Testimonies from 23 witnesses including Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia and former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela were considered during the trial.
Investigators named 22 accused in the case but only 19 people were put on trial due to the death of three suspects.
Additional chief judicial magistrate of Mehsana, YR Agrawal, convicted Chaudhary and 14 others under section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sentenced them to seven years imprisonment. Four accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Among the other 14 convicted by the judge were Dudhsagar Dairy’s former board members, its former vice chairperson Jalaben Thakor and former managing director Nishith Baxi.
“Looking at the seriousness of the crime in the present case, the accused, with the intention to cheat, have caused heavy financial loss to the stakeholders of Dudhsagar dairy and to the cattle farmers. Also, looking at the way the crime was committed, sentencing them to imprisonment for a short term will not serve the purpose of law,” the trial court said in its 251-page order on July 13.
Chaudhary was ousted as chairman of GCMMF in December 2013 through a no-confidence motion by majority directors of the federation who accused him of indulging in financial irregularities in Mehsana Milk Union.
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