Taking a U-turn, the Special Operations Group (SOG) in Rajasthan has submitted an application in the local court stating that it will drop sedition charges in three FIRs related to horse trading to topple the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan. It has asked the court to transfer the investigation to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB). This, it said, is because it has been found during investigation that the matter is related to Prevention of Corruption (PC), and thus ACB should investigate.
In another matter related to the same FIRs; Rajasthan High Court will hear plea on the petition filed by Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma challenging the FIR against him by SOG on August 13. Sharma had sought investigation by NIA.
The matter was adjourned on Tuesday after special counsel Siddharth Luthra contested that the petition has been rendered infructuous as the SOG has dropped charges of Sedition and case has been transferred to Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Appearing on behalf of Sharma senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi argued that false charges have been levelled and the FIR is a result of political vendetta. The matter has been placed for hearing and final disposal on August 13.
Three FIRs had been registered by the SOG on the complaint of Chief Whip for Congress Mahesh Joshi.
Political Significance of dropping Sedition charges
The developments if viewed in chronological order assume political significance in the current political drama being played out in Rajasthan. The first indications of a softening stand came on Sunday when Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the rebels could back to the party fold. In another major move, the SOG team that had been camping in Delhi for the last fortnight in search of the Congress MLAs of the rebel faction were called back on Monday. On Tuesday morning, the SOG put up an application before the court that it was dropping the sedition charges.
Tuesday was also the day when Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma’s petition seeking NIA probe into the purported audio clips about horse trading was scheduled for hearing.
Experts believe that the government was concerned about the outcome of Sharma’s petition. In case the court passed an order transferring the case to NIA, investigation being handed over to a central agency would not bode well for the Gehlot government. Withdrawal of the charges renders the petition infructuous.
Further, an NIA probe would also seek the source of the audio clips and the authorization for phone tapping. This too could prove difficult for the Rajasthan government.
It is also believed that there is a possibility that the move is intended as an olive branch of sorts for the MLAs of the Pilot faction to shift to the Gehlot fold. An FIR under Sedition charges makes arrest mandatory if the MLAs come to Rajasthan for attending assembly or other reasons.