A Delhi court on Wednesday admitted a petition challenging the academic credentials of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, calling the plea “maintainable” and fixing August 28 as the date for the hearing.
Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain took cognizance of the complaint and fixed the matter for recording of pre-summoning evidence on August 28. “It is held that the present complaint case is filed under limitation (of time). Cognizance is taken. The matter be now fixed for pre-summoning evidence on August 28,” the magistrate said.
The complaint was filed by freelance writer Ahmer Khan, who alleged that Irani, in her three affidavits before the Election Commission while filing nominations for her candidature for Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha polls, had purportedly given different details about her educational qualification.
“Yes, the court has found the plea maintainable, but only to the extent that the complainant must show proof on the day of the hearing,” Irani’s lawyer told reporters outside the Patiala House court in the national capital.
Khan’s lawyer KK Manan had told the court that Irani declared herself to be a 1996 batch B.A. 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 I in 1994 from Delhi University.
Irani has been accused of giving false information about her educational qualifications in her Election Commission affidavits. “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 added that Irani also lied on oath about her assets and it sought action against her for offences under the Representation of the People Act.
Why is this a setback for Irani?
The setback to Irani came as her party, the BJP, has attacked the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi over Jitendra Singh Tomar’s fake degrees. A BJP minister in Maharashtra, Vinod Tawde, is also facing allegations of presenting false credentials in his affidavits to the Election Commission.
The case against the HRD minister, coming barely a month before Parliament’s monsoon session that begins on July 21, will provide further fodder to the opposition Congress. “We ask for her resignation on moral grounds,” Congress spokesperson Shakil Ahmad told India Today TV in what was an indication of his party’s strategy in the coming days.