Rajasthan’s SOG drops sedition charge, transfers horse trading cases to anti-corruption bureau
The SOG’s decision came on a day the Rajasthan high court was supposed to hear a petition of rebel Congress MLA Bhanwarilal Sharma seeking quashing of SOG case against him or referring the case to National Investigation Agency as sedition charges were pressed against him.Updated: Aug 04, 2020 21:35 IST
The special operations group (SOG) of Rajasthan Police on Tuesday handed over the three cases related to attempts to topple Congress government in the state to the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) after dropping charges of sedition, an official said.
This happened on the day the Rajasthan high court was supposed to hear a petition of rebel Congress MLA Bhanwarilal Sharma seeking quashing of SOG case against him or referring the case to National Investigation Agency as sedition charges were pressed against him.
“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 (ACB) as the preliminary investigation reveals only corruption charges. Hence, the petition should be considered as infructuous.”
SOG’s additional director general of police, Ashok Rathore, said facts related to corruption surfaced during the preliminary probe. “We took suggestions from legal experts and on the basis of their advice, we are sending all documents related to cases in FIR Nos. 47, 48 and 49 to the ACB,” he said.
The SOG has so far registered three FIRs on the complaint filed by Congress chief whip in Rajasthan assembly, Mahesh Joshi, related to the horse-trading allegedly aimed at dislodging the Congress government in the state.
The first FIR, number 47, was registered on July 10, in which two accused, Ashok Jain from Banswara and Bharat Malani, were arrested. They are presently in judicial custody.
The second and third FIRs, numbers 48 and 49, were registered on July 17. In the FIR number 48, Sadulshahar MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma, Sanjay Jain and Gajendra Singh were booked. Jain was arrested on July 17.
The SOG reports to chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
Sanjay Jain’s counsel Vivek Bajwa said that the SOG filed an application in the court of the chief judicial magistrate court saying that evidences found so far do not make out 124-A (sedition) charges and the investigation should be done by the ACB.
“We have requested the court that in the SOG FIRs charges of only criminal conspiracy are left which is a bailable offence. We have requested the local court to grant bail to my client Sanjay Jain and the hearing on the bail application would be held tomorrow,” said Bajwa.
An MLA from the Sachin Pilot camp said the sedition charge was dropped because of the petition by Bhanwarlal Sharma in the high court to transfer the case to the NIA.
Legal expert Akhil Choudhary said that Indian Penal Code does not criminalize actions of destabilsing Government, but if the Government wanted to at all criminalize such actions, as is happening in Rajasthan, and have happened earlier in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, then the sections of Prevention of Corruption could have been used against receiving or attempting to receive bribes.
“MLAs are public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and they can be prosecuted for such offences,” he said.
State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Satish Poonia said that the party had maintained that sedition provisions in the IPC were very old and were used by British to suppress the freedom fighters.
“There were no legal grounds to get the FIR registered under sections of sedition. Congress was afraid that the FIR may be quashed by the HC. The withdrawal reveals the moral defeat and exposure of Congress’ plan to create fear in independents and MLAs of an independent party. It has also revealed that the ACB and SOG are being misused,” Poonia said.
Reacting to the allegations of Poonia, state Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma said that it is a moral victory for chief minister Ashok Gehlot because the investigation revealed that the MLAs were offered money. “This is a moral victory for the Congress as preliminary investigation reveals that facts regarding the offering of money were true,” Sharma said.