Rajasthan High Court
Rajasthan High Court
FPJ Photo

Jaipur

Taking a U-turn, the Special Operations Group (SOG) Rajasthan has submitted an application in a local court 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 the investigation that the matter is related to Prevention of Corruption (PC), thus the ACB should investigate.

In another matter related to the same FIRs, the Rajasthan High Court will hear the petition by Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma, challenging the FIR against him by the SOG on August 13. Sharma had sought investigation by the NIA.

The matter was adjourned on Tuesday after special counsel Siddharth Luthra contested that the petition was rendered infructuous as the SOG has dropped the sedition charges and the case was transferred to the ACB.

Appearing on behalf of Sharma, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi argued that false charges were levelled and the FIR was a result of political vendetta. The matter has been posted for hearing and final disposal on August 13.

Three FIRs were registered by the SOG on the complaint of chief whip for Congress Mahesh Joshi.

Political significance of dropping sedition charges

The developments in the current political drama being played out in Rajasthan assume significance. The first indications of a softening stand came on Sunday when Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the rebels could come back to the partyfold. In another major move, the SOG team that had been camping in Delhi for the last fortnight in search of the rebel Congress MLAs was called back on Monday. On Tuesday morning, the SOG filed an application before the court that it was dropping 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 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 bode badly 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 authorisation for phone tapping that could prove difficult for the Rajasthan government.

It is also believed there is a possibility the move is to make space for MLAs of the Pilot faction to shift to the Gehlot camp. An FIR under sedition charges makes arrest mandatory if the MLAs come to Rajasthan or attend the assembly session.

HC junks plea to remove Guv

The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday dismissed the petition seeking the removal of Governor Kalraj Mishra. The petition had sought his removal for not discharging his constitutional responsibility of convening a session after recommendation from the state cabinet. The petition was filed on July 28 by Jaipur lawyer Shantanu Pareek amid the ongoing political tussle in Rajasthan after the Governor had returned two cabinet proposals to convene a special session of the state assembly. The Governor had returned the proposal on both the occas­ions with queries and sought answers. He subsequ­en­tly accepted the proposal and the session is scheduled to begin from August 14.

BSP, BJP seek stay on 6 MLAs’ merger in Cong

Sangeeta Pranvendra / Jaipur

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Tuesday approached the divisional bench of the Rajasthan Chief Justice and challenged the July 31 order of refusing a stay on functioning of 6 BSP MLAs as Congress MLAs. The matter is scheduled for hearing on Wednesday.

Both the BSP and the BJP had filed writ petitions challenging the September 18, 2019, decision of Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Dr CP Joshi, allowing the merger of all 6 BSP MLAs of Rajasthan in the ruling Congress. This merger had helped Ashok Gehlot government to attain numbers beyond the clear majority.

In separate petitions by BJP MLA and state general secretary Madan Dilwar and BSP national secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, the single judge bench had issued notices to the Assembly Speaker, Assembly secretary and all the 6 BSP MLAs. However, it refused to grant a stay on their functioning as Congress MLAs in the proceedings of the House. The matter was scheduled to come up for hearing on August 11.

On Tuesday separate appeals were filed by Dilawar and Mishra for urgent hearing on the matter by the division bench headed by Chief Justice Inderjeet Mahanty.

"It is up to the rebel MLAs of Rajasthan to first come for a dialogue to us. The Congress’s only condition is that they should give up the hospitality of the BJP government of Manoharlal Khattar in Haryana. Let them first break away from BJP and opt for homecoming as then only talks are possible," Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress leader.

Congress chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala
Congress chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala

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