A Delhi court has rejected Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's request for acquittal in a criminal defamation case brought against him by Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Gehlot's plea for acquittal was based on Shekhawat's absence in court on August 7 and 21. Senior Advocate Mohit Mathur, representing Ashok Gehlot, argued that Section 256 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) stipulates that an accused should be acquitted in a complaint if the complainant remains absent without a justifiable cause.
In response to Gehlot's plea request, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Harjeet Singh Jaspal observed that those court dates were primarily scheduled for document submission and scrutiny. Moreover, the Shekawat's counsel had been present on both days.
Therefore, the court concluded that the complainant's absence on just two dates, where his counsel and his presence represented him was not required, did not constitute a justifiable reason to invoke Section 256 of CrPC to acquit the accused, and thus, Gehlot's application for acquittal was dismissed.
Chief Minister Gehlot had made allegations against Shekawhat involvement in the Sanjeevani scam. The scandal involved thousands of investors allegedly getting duped of about Rs 900 crore by the Sanjivani Credit Cooperative Society on the promise of highly lucrative returns. Shekhawat had filed a criminal defamation suit against Gehlot following his remarks.
In March 2023, the court had ordered Delhi Police to investigate whether the chief minister had made the alleged statements. After the police confirmed the statements, the court issued summons to Gehlot in the case. On July 6, 2023, after considering the evidence, Jaspal stated that the prima facie appeared that the accused (Gehlot) had made defamatory statements.
This comes ahead of the Rajasthan state assembly elections slated for December 2023 or early 2024. Congress is expected to announce its candidates for Rajasthan at the end of September.
(With agency inputs)