Local bodies and medical education minister Anil Joshi on Friday made a sudden appearance in a local court, three days before the date of hearing, in connection with three criminal cases filed against him by two city-based lawyers.
The court granted Joshi bail after furnishing surety bonds of Rs. 50,000 in each of the three cases. In the previous hearing in the cases, the minister had failed to appear in court after which arrest warrants were issued against him.
He appeared in the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Hem Amrit Mahi.
In the last hearing on November 18, the BJP leader, who represents Amritsar North assembly segment, was directed to appear before the court before or on December 23.
The first case was filed against Joshi after a team of Amritsar municipal corporation (AMC) tried to demolish some portions of a local hotel, which they claimed were an encroachment upon a public road.
The complainant in this case is Vaneet Mahajan, a lawyer and the owner of the hotel.
The case was filed in October last year before a local court, which after further hearings found sufficient evidence of the minister's involvement. The court, thereafter, issued summons to him under sections 452, 427, 292, 506, 120-B, 148 and 149 of the IPC (trespassing, criminal conspiracy, destruction of property).
The others who were issued summons in the case were the then municipal commissioner DP Gupta, municipal town planner (MTP) Desh Raj, assistant town planner (ATP) Narinder Singh and building inspector, Randhawa.
Barring Gupta, all others, including Joshi, have been granted bail in the case.
Mahajan as the complainant had claimed before the court that his hotel was targeted as he had lodged a complaint before the Election Commission of India (ECI) of "electoral malpractices" against the minister during the January 2012 assembly poll campaign.
The other two are defamation suits against Joshi filed separately by Mahajan and his lawyer colleague Sandeep Gorsi.
The court had issued the summons to the minister in the two cases after taking into account the evidence submitted and arguments made by the complainants' counsel. The court during hearing in October found that "there is sufficient evidence on file for summoning" the minister.
The case relates to a press conference that the two lawyers had jointly addressed on January 30 last year. During the conference, the lawyers had disclosed alleged "illegalities and offences committed by the minister grossly misusing his powers".
The lawyers had distributed voter lists showing that the name of Joshi and some of his close relatives figured in the lists of two different assembly constituencies. They had written to the ECI on this issue and had demanded that the minister's election be declared null and void from the Amritsar North constituency. The inquiry in this case is still pending with the ECI.
In his reaction to the allegations, Joshi, then holding the industries and technical education portfolios, had called the two advocates 'blackmailers'.
A few leading dailies had carried the remarks of the minister the next day. The advocates approached the court and filed a defamation suit against the minister under sections 499, 500 and 501 of the IPC.
The court also summoned the journalists who had carried the minister's reaction in their respective newspapers. Besides, the evidence put forth by the journalists, the court also took into account the plea by the advocates that they had suffered professionally due to the minister's remarks and that many of their clients had withdrawn their court cases from them.
Some clients had also deposed before the court stating that they withdrew their cases following the remarks made by the minister against Gorsi and Mahajan.
Cases against minister
A case was filed against Joshi by Vaneet Mahajan, a lawyer, after an MC team tried to demolish some portions of latter's hotel, which they claimed were encroaching upon a public road.
The other two cases are defamation suits filed by Mahajan and his colleague Sandeep Gorsi relating to a press conference held by the two in which they had alleged that "illegalities were committed by the minister."
The court during hearing in October found that "there is sufficient evidence for summoning" Joshi