Ahmedabad: A day after Narendra Modi was booked for making a speech at a polling booth while displaying BJP’s election symbol in violation of electoral laws, a preliminary probe by Gujarat police has found he addressed the gathering outside the restricted 100-metre radius.
“Just like any other case, we will investigate this case to find out the facts such as whether Modi was inside the 100-metre radius of the polling booth.
“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 today initiated the investigation.
The model code for elections prevents canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations.
An FIR was lodged against Modi yesterday under section 126 (1)(a) of the Representation of 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-cognizable complaint was also filed against the TV channels which 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 the 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 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. However, it is not always necessary to question the accused. We may or may not call Modi for questioning,” he said
“As per the RP Act, one can be sentenced to 2 years jail term and/or fine, for the violation of section 126(1)(a),” an official said. Modi had set off a huge controversy after he addressed the media outside the polling station soon after casting his ballot in Ranip area in BJP veteran L K Advani’s Gandhinagar constituency. All the while he spoke, Modi held a lotus badge in hand.
Seeing red, Congress immediately complained to the Election Commission and sought action against Modi including his disqualification.
Other parties also attacked the Gujarat chief minister for his conduct with AAP calling him a ‘habitual offender’.
The Commission had got into action and directed authorities in Gujarat to file FIR against the Modi.
“The Commission is of the view that by holding that meeting and also by addressing the same today when the polling is going on in the entire state of Gujarat and in different parts of the country, Narendra Modi has violated the provisions of Sections 126 (1)(a) and 126 (l)(b) of Representation of People Act, 1951.
“Therefore, the Commission directs…that complaint/ FIR as the case may be, should be filed against Narendra Modi and all others who were involved in the convening and holding of the said meeting…,” the EC order said.
In its order, the EC also said that all the TV channels and other electronic media which carried the proceedings of the meeting should also be proceeded against under Section 126 (l) (b) “by filing separate complaints/FlRs against those channels.”