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Smriti Irani degree dispute: Court finds case cognizable

Ahmer Khan  had filed the complaint in April seeking action against the HRD Minister Smriti Irani for allegedly lying on oath about her educational qualification and assets.

Ahmer Khan’s lawyer KK Manan had told the court that Irani declared herself to be a 1996 batch BA graduate from Delhi University in her affidavit filed for the 2004 Lok Sabha election. But in her 2014 Lok Sabha election affidavit, she stated she had done B.Com Part 1 in 1994 from Delhi University.

Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain took cognizance of the complaint and fixed the matter for recording of per-summoning evidence on 28 August.

“It is held that the present complaint case is filed under limitation (of time). Cognizance is taken. The matter be now fixed for per-summoning evidence on August 28,” the magistrate said.

“The court has taken cognizance. It has directed the complainant must show proof on the day of hearing,” Smriti Irani’s lawyer said.

Smriti Irani’s lawyer also clarified that the HRD Minister had not been summoned in the case so far and no FIR had been registered against her.

Ahmer Khan complainant in the case, said, “The court took our allegations very seriously. On 28 August, I will present evidence in the court. Then, summons to Smriti Irani will be issued.”

“It is evident from the contents of the affidavits filed by Irani that at best, only one of the depositions by her on oath in respect of her educational qualifications is correct,” said the petitioner’s counsel Manan.

The petition seeks Irani to be prosecuted for an offense under section 25 of the Representation of the People Act. If convicted for the offense by the court, Irani can be sentenced to upto six months imprisonment.

“I am not a political activist. I do not have any association with any party. My complaint against Irani was purely based on media reports. We just made the efforts to collect the relevant information to collect information from appropriate channels,” Ahmer Khan says.

Opposition’s Reaction

 

Ajay Maken Congress spokesperson said “She should be held guilty of offense under Section 125A read with Section 33 of Representation of Peoples Act, 1950 besides other offenses under Indian Penal Code.”

Ajay Maken further stated Irani’s continuation in office is untenable and illegal, “both on the touchstone of constitutionality as also legality and morality”, particularly, when her degrees of Delhi University are under investigation. “Smriti Irani should be immediately sacked as HRD Minister in order to conduct a free and fair investigation in the matter,” he demanded.

Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said: “It is apparent that the country’s Education Minister is lying about her own education. What will happen to the future of millions of children in the country? Irani has no moral, constitutional or legal right to continue in her post for even a day.”

AAP leader Ashuthosh commented “There cannot be two yardsticks for the same issue. The rule of law is the same for everybody, the Constitution and democracy are same for everybody. If they believe Tomar should be arrested, why not Irani?” he added.

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BJP Reacts

 

“Our ministers do not have to resign. This is not UPA government.This is NDA government,” home minister Rajnath Singh

BJP instead blamed “typographical error” for the alleged false information on educational qualification submitted by HRD Minister Smriti Irani and rejected any comparison between her and AAP leader Jitender Singh Tomar who has been jailed in a fake degree case.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said “One should know the difference between a fake document and a typographical error. This case (relating to Irani) is not for fake documents,”

Sambit Patra also stated that the court has only taken cognizance of the complaint and asked the person who has filed the complaint that “you have to give per-summoning evidence as to why she should be summoned. Why hue and cry over something which has not gone to the level of verdict?”

BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said “You cannot compare oranges and apples. In the case of Tomar, there is a police investigation which has proved beyond doubt that there is a criminal act of a fake degree, going ahead and contesting an election on it and then being the Law Minister,”

He said that in the case of Smriti Irani, the court has spoken about maintainability of the complaint, which is the first step of a legal process as to whether there is a ground in terms of jurisdiction. “It has neither any implication on conviction nor exoneration.”