An inquiry into allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party offered bribe to the Leh Press Club to report in the party’s favour during the Lok Sabha elections has found prima facie merit in the charges, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

Leh District Election Officer and Deputy Commissioner Avny Lavasa, who ordered the inquiry, said they approached the district court through the police on Tuesday to register a first information report in the matter. “However, the court has not issued any order in the matter so far,” Lavasa said.

Lavasa said the complaints filed by the press club last week alleging a violation of the Model Code of Conduct by BJP leaders amounted to a criminal offence. She said she wrote to the police to file an FIR or a complaint after the allegations were found to be true. The police filed a complaint and placed it before the court on Tuesday, she said.

“We are pleading for registration of an FIR in the matter,” Lavasa said. “There are now three complaints – one from us, and two others made by the Press Club Leh to me and SHO [Station House Officer] Leh,” she said. Lavasa said the police are combining all the complaints into one.

Leh Press Club’s complaint and BJP response

In its complaint, the Leh Press Club had said that BJP leaders, including Jammu and Kashmir unit President Ravinder Raina, had tried to bribe journalists on Thursday at Hotel Singge Palace in Leh.

“After the press conference was over, BJP leaders, including state president Ravinder Raina and member of legislative council Vikram Randhawa, tried to bribe the reporters by offering money in envelopes in an attempt to use our platform to influence the outcome of elections,” the press club said in complaint. “We did not accept the offer and we were anguished at such an attempt.”

The press club said in a Facebook post on Saturday that the BJP had tried to “belittle the dignity of media of Leh by offering them cash”.

On Sunday, the BJP threatened to file a defamation case against the press club, while denying the allegations and demanded an apology from the press club. In his letter to the press club’s president, Raina said the allegations were “totally false, baseless, without any evidence and seems politically motivated”.

Video footage that emerged on Tuesday purportedly showed some BJP leaders handing over envelopes to journalists at the hotel ahead of the elections to the Ladakh parliamentary seat. The footage purportedly showed a person resembling Raina speaking to journalists while his colleague hands over the envelopes to the reporters, according to The Telegraph. A reporter is seen opening the envelope and returning it to a BJP leader, who does not take it back. The woman then drops it on the table next to him.