Gujarat court suspends ex-minister Vipul Chaudhary’s sentence in cheating case; grants him bail

A sessions court in Gujarat’s Mehsana town on Friday suspended the seven year sentence awarded to former state minister and Dudhsagar Dairy’s former chairman Vipul Chaudhary in a case of cheating and causing a loss of Rs 22.5 crore to the dairy in 2014, and granted him bail.

A magistrate’s court here had last week convicted Chaudhary and 14 others of charges under section 420 (cheating) under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sentenced them to jail for seven years.

While hearing an appeal filed by Chaudhary and others, Mehsana’s additional district and sessions judge C M Pawar on Friday suspended the lower court’s sentence and granted bail to the former minister and 14 others, who are behind bars after the lower court’s order on July 13.

As Chaudhary and the other accused have also filed an appeal in the sessions court against the magistrate’s verdict, judge Pawar asked them to submit their passports and remain present during the hearing of their appeal.

While granting bail to all the accused, the court also directed them not to leave the country without permission and asked them not to change their current residence.

Chaudhary, a prominent face of Gujarat’s cooperative sector, was a minister in the Shankarsinh Vaghela government in 1996.

An FIR was registered against the former minister and others at Mehsana B division police station in 2014 when he was chairman of the Mehsana District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd, popularly known as Dudhsagar Dairy.

At that time, he was also the chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), an apex body of 18 milk unions, which owns the Amul brand.

Chaudhary was then sacked from both the GCMMF and Dudhsagar Dairy over alleged corruption in cattle fodder procurement.

As per the FIR, Chaudhary, as the then dairy chairman, took a decision in 2014 to send cattle feed to drought-hit Maharashtra.

However, the state government had alleged the decision of sending the cattle feed worth Rs 22.5 crore was taken without bringing any resolution in the dairy’s board meeting or issuing any tender.

The other 14 accused include Dudhsagar Dairy’s former board members, its former vice-chairperson Jalaben Thakor and former managing director Nishith Baxi.

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