A day after the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi was booked for making a speech at a polling booth while displaying his party’s election symbol in violation of electoral laws, a preliminary probe by the Gujarat Police has found he addressed the gathering outside the restricted 100-metre radius.
"Our preliminary probe (has) revealed that authorities had marked that limit with a white strip outside the booth, and the press conference was outside that limit," said a senior officer of Detection of Crime Branch of Ahmedabad police, which on Thursday initiated the investigation.
The model code for elections prevents canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations.
An FIR was lodged against Modi on Wednesday under section 126 (1) (a) of the Representation of the People Act on the orders of the Election Commission for holding a meeting at the polling station. The provision bans holding of public meetings during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the close of the poll.
A non-cognisable complaint was also filed against TV channels that had broadcast the conference under section 126 (1)(b) of the RP Act.
"There is only one FIR against Modi for violating 126(1)(a) of the RP Act and section 188 of Indian Penal Code for violating CrPC section 144, which prohibits more than four people from gathering for a specific purpose. This is a cognizable offence, which falls under the jurisdiction of police. Police inspector Harpal Rathod became the complainant on behalf of government," the officer said.
"Another complaint against TV channels has been filed under 126(1)(b) for telecasting Modi's press conference, it is not an FIR. It is a non-cognizable offence. We will approach the court and follow its order about the NC complaint as police cannot investigate NC complaint (on their own)," he said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the officer also said the charge under section 144 CrPC would not stand legal scrutiny.
"The charge against Modi under CrPC 144 will not stand trial, as nobody can prove that all the mediapersons and common public were invited or called to the venue by Modi himself. Modi never sent an SMS or called them," he said.
The officer said the BJP's prime ministerial contender may not be necessarily called for questioning.
"Our line of investigation includes questioning people present at the time and acquiring video footage. We may or may not call Modi for questioning," he said. "As per the RP Act, one can be sentenced to two years in jail and/or fine for the violation of section 126(1)(a)," an official said.