Sikkim Krantikari Morcha president Prem Singh Golay was today convicted on charges of misappropriating government funds of around Rs 10 lakh during his tenure as a minister between 1994 and 1999.
A lower court here sentenced Golay to one year in prison and slapped a fine of Rs 10,000. Later, the court granted him bail.
The former minister who was a founder member of the Sikkim Democratic Front was named in a chargesheet filed by the vigilance department in 2010 and accused of misappropriating Rs 9.5 lakh meant for distributing cows to beneficiaries under a state government scheme.
Other than Golay, who was then the animal husbandry minister, four others had been named in the chargesheet.
"Three persons - Keshu Agarwal, Sanjay Agarwal and Subash Tamang - have been acquitted as the prosecution could not provide substantive evidence against them," said a senior lawyer.
Another accused, the former managing director of Sikkim Milk Union, T.B. Gurung, has been convicted.
He was sentenced to eight months' jail term and given a fine of Rs 5,000. Judge Prajwal Khatiwara granted him bail.
Asked about the verdict, Golay told reporters: "I welcome the decision of the lower court and I have nothing to say about it. I will appeal in the high court."
Golay has been in politics for around 25 years and he has been a minister for three terms (from 1994 to 2009).
He became an MLA in 2009 and is serving his fifth term in the Assembly.
Golay is the senior-most legislator in the state after chief minister Pawan Chamling.
The MLA, who was with the SDF since it was formed in 1993, resigned from the party in September 2013 alleging nepotism and lack of proper leadership.
He floated the SKM in 2012 and took charge of the party on October 5, 2013.
Golay contested the 2014 Assembly polls from two constituencies - Namthang Rateypani in South Sikkim and Upper Burtuk. He lost Namthang Rateypani but won the Upper Burtuk seat.
That year, the SKM won 10 of the 32 seats.
Last year, however, seven SKM MLAs joined the SDF.(TT)