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Amitabh Bachchan gets clean chit in UP land scam (Lead)

Lucknow, Dec 11 (IANS) The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court Tuesday gave a clean chit to Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan in a case pertaining to alleged fraudulent allotment of government land to him in Barabanki district, about 40 km from here.

2007-12-11T20:11:00Z

Lucknow, Dec 11 (IANS) The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court Tuesday gave a clean chit to Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan in a case pertaining to alleged fraudulent allotment of government land to him in Barabanki district, about 40 km from here.

The ruling gave a much-needed relief to Bachchan after he was badly cornered in the blatant land scam.

Absolving Bachchan of the criminal charges, the single-judge bench of Justice A.N. Verma ruled in a crowded court that since the film star had already relinquished his claim over the land, all criminal proceedings against him be dropped.

Significantly, however, the court agreed that the fraudulently made entries in the land records be corrected and the land be restored to the gram sabha (village executive), which originally owned the property.

Bachchan's counsel Gaurav Bhatia welcomed the judgement.

'Nothing could have been better as far as we are concerned. It is surely a judicious order and has proved that there was no foul play by Mr. Bachchan,' Bhatia told IANS.

However, the UP government's chief standing counsel Devendra Upadhaya termed the verdict as 'contradictory'. He said' 'I would advise the state to appeal against the order before the apex court.'

Bachchan was charged with committing 'forgery' and 'fraud' in getting his name entered in the official revenue records as the legitimate allottee of some 2.75 bighas of land (about 70,000 sq ft) in Daulatpur village of Barabanki district.

The Faizabad divisional commissioner, where Bachchan had filed an appeal, had upheld Barabanki district magistrate's order of March 24, 2006. The commissioner had ruled that the 1993 Barabanki land transfer in Bachchan's name was illegal.

In June 2007, the commissioner had also ordered criminal proceedings to be initiated against the star, who in turn went about claiming that he was being hounded by the Mayawati administration because of his proximity with the ousted Mulayam Singh Yadav regime.

Consequently, Bachchan filed a writ petition before the high court, seeking relief from any criminal action. He also pleaded before the court that both the district magistrate and the commissioner had passed the verdict against him without giving him an opportunity to be heard.

Interestingly, while the writ was pending, the gram sabha counsel made a formal offer before the court that if Bachchan were to surrender his claim to the land in dispute, he would not press for criminal proceedings.

That was what brought to Bachchan the much-needed relief as the court too agreed that no criminal proceedings were warranted against him in the light of his formal abdication of claim to the said land.

The court turned down the state government's plea that mere surrender of the land could not absolve Bachchan of the charge of using fraudulent means to get the gram sabha land transferred to him.

The judge held that since there was no evidence of any forgery or fraud having been committed by the petitioner, there was no need for taking any criminal action against him.

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