A Patiala court on Friday sentenced singer Daler Mehndi to two years in jail in a human trafficking case registered against him in 2003. Mehndi, who was present in the court, was arrested and was later released on bail. Daler Mehndi and brother Shamsher Singh had been accused of illegally sending people abroad disguised as members of his troupe by charging hefty “passage money”. It was alleged that Mehndi brothers had taken two troupes in 1998 and 1999 during the course of which 10 people were taken to the US as group members and were “dropped off” illegally.
Pleading innocence, Daler told the media on Friday: “I have been granted bail. We will appeal in a higher court.
“Police had earlier moved two petitions before the court saying that Daler was not required in the case as he had nothing to do with the immigration fraud, called ‘kabootarbaazi’ — meaning flying pigeons referring to numerous youth in Punjab trying to use illegal means to settle abroad.
Daler, on a trip to the US in the company of Karisma Kapoor and the latter’s mother Babita, had allegedly “dropped off” three girls at San Francisco. The girls had been identified as Priya, Meenu Behn and Nimu, all from Gujarat.
The brothers took another troupe to the US in October 1999 in the company of Juhi Chawla, Raveena Tandon and Javed Jaffri during which three boys were “dropped off” at New Jersey. Soon after the Patiala police registered a case against Daler and Shamsher, on a complaint filed by one Bakshish Singh; 35 more complaints came up levelling charges of fraud against the brothers. The complainants had alleged that the brothers had taken “passage money’ from them to help them migrate to the US ‘illegally’, but had failed to do so.
The Patiala police had even raided the offices of Daler Mehndi at Connaught Place in New Delhi and seized documents, including the case file of those who had paid the Mehndi brothers ‘passage money”.In 2006, the Patiala police filed two discharge petitions articulating Daler Mehndi to be innocent, but the court had upheld that Daler Mehndi be prosecuted as there was “sufficient evidence against him on the judicial file and scope for further investigation”.
Daler Mehndi had a massive following in the late nineties and early 2000s for his pop songs, including the hit numbers “Tunak Tunak Tun”, “Bolo Ta Ra Ra” and “Saade Naal Rahoge Toh…”.