A Delhi court agreed to hear a complaint on Wednesday against human resource development minister Smriti Irani over her educational qualifications, dealing a fresh blow to the BJP fighting fire over two top leaders allegedly helping ex-IPL boss Lalit Modi.
Metropolitan magistrate Akash Jain admitted the complaint and said he would hear pre-charge evidence in the case on August 28.
"It is held that the present complaint case is filed under limitation (of time). Cognisance is taken. The matter be now fixed for pre-summoning evidence on August 28," Jain said.
Irani, the youngest member of the NDA cabinet, may be summoned as an accused in the criminal case if the evidence, on face value, proves she falsified her educational qualifications in election affidavits.
Hundreds of Congress workers protested outside the HRD ministry as senior party leaders called for Irani’s resignation and alleged double standards, pointing out former AAP minister Jitender Singh Tomar quit days ago for allegedly forging certificates.
Complainant Ahmer Khan, a 26-year-old freelance writer, said he discovered via an RTI that Irani’s 2004 affidavit stated she received a 1996 BA degree from Delhi University but her 2011 Rajya Sabha nomination papers said she completed B.Com Part I from the School of Correspondence, DU.
He added the minister’s affidavit in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls said she finished B Com Part I the School of Open Learning, DU.
"It is apparent that the country's education minister is lying about her own education. What will happen to the future of millions of children in the country. Irani has no moral, constitutional or legal right to continue," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
If the evidence proves the subsistence of a criminal case against Irani, the court can summon her to appear before it as an accused.
The court had on June 1 reserved its order on the plea after hearing arguments on the issue of limitation and whether cognisance of the complaint could be taken.
Senior advocate KK Manan, appearing for Khan, had informed the court Irani had stated in her affidavit for the April 2004 Lok Sabha polls that she had completed her BA from Delhi University (School of Correspondence) in 1996. In another affidavit submitted on July 11, 2011 for contesting the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, she said her highest educational qualification was BCom Part I from Delhi University (School of Correspondence).
Khan further alleged that Irani had stated in yet another affidavit, submitted for the Lok Sabha polls from Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh in April 2014, that she had completed BCom Part I from Delhi University’s School of Open Learning.
"It is evident from the contents of the affidavits filed by Smriti Z Irani that at best only one of the depositions by her on oath in respect of her educational qualifications is correct," the complaint said.
"The aforesaid affidavits of Smriti Irani, apart from the ostensibly false and discrepant statements in respect of her educational qualifications, also appear to contain false/discrepant statements in respect of immovable properties owned by her and other details set out by her," it claimed.
Khan contended that Irani’s action amounted to a violation of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
Khan, who was present during Wednesday’s hearing, told Hindustan Times he "had no quarrel with the HRD Minister". He added "there were hurdles to pass still" since he will have to convince the court to summon Irani.