The Special Operations Group of the Rajasthan Police that is investigating the alleged cases of horse-trading of Congress MLAs aimed at toppling the Ashok Gehlot-led government transferred them to the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau on Tuesday and dropped the sedition charges, PTI reported. The police said that the documents pertaining to the cases were transferred to the bureau on legal advice.
According to legal advice, no case of sedition could be made out against any legislator under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. The Special Operations Group said the alleged offences pertaining to the Prevention of Corruption Act would be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
“Prima facie, the crime was proved to be committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” a police statement said. “Hence the case papers and all other documents have been sent to the ACB for further necessary action.”
The Rajasthan Police, which first registered a case on July 10, had arrested an alleged middleman on July 17, and a court remanded him in police custody.
The Rajasthan Police alleged that the man, Sanjay Jain, was heard talking to rebel Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and one Gajendra Singh, who the Congress claimed was Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. The Congress also alleged that Jain was a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a claim that the saffron party rejected.
The transfer of the cases happened on the same day the Rajasthan High Court was scheduled to hear Sharma’s plea seeking quashing of the case against him, or their transfer to the National Investigation Agency, as sedition charges had been filed against him, Hindustan Times reported.
“The hearing on the petition would be held on August 13,” said Anil Upman, special public prosecutor. “We informed the court that the SOG has filed an application in the lower court that investigation of the cases should be done by the anti-corruption bureau since the preliminary investigation reveals only corruption charges.”
Vivek Bajwa, Jain’s counsel, said the defendant has requested the local court that sent him to police custody to grant him bail, as the remaining charges against him relate to a bailable offence.
BJP state chief attacks Congress
Rajasthan Bharatiya Janata Party President Satish Poonia said, “There were no legal grounds to get the first information report registered under sections of sedition.” He attacked the Congress, saying, “Congress was afraid that the FIR may be quashed by the High Court. The withdrawal reveals the moral defeat and exposure of Congress’ plan to create fear in independents and MLAs of an independent party.” He added that the Special Operations Group and the Anti-Corruption Bureau were being misused.
The Rajasthan crisis
The crisis began last month when former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot left for Delhi with several MLAs who supported him. Pilot was subsequently asked as the deputy chief minister. Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi disqualified the MLAs, but the High Court put this move on hold. The Congress has alleged that the BJP is part of a conspiracy to bring down its Rajasthan government.
The MLAs supporting Gehlot were shifted after an 18-day stay in Fairmont Hotel in Jaipur to Jaisalmer last week. This was ahead of a scheduled vote of confidence for the Gehlot-led government on August 14.
Before Pilot left, the Congress and its allies had 126 MLAs in the 200-member Assembly. The Gehlot camp may also be compromised by the six former BSP legislators, who defected to the Congress last September, but are now facing a court case filed by an enraged party chief Mayawati, who has also threatened to sack them if they vote for the Congress.