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'[Breaking] Uttarakhand High Court Directs CBI To Register FIR And Probe Corruption Allegations Against CM Trivendra Singh Rawat [Read Order]

Sparsh Upadhyay
28 Oct 2020 4:16 AM GMT
[Breaking] Uttarakhand High Court Directs CBI To Register FIR And Probe Corruption Allegations Against CM Trivendra Singh Rawat [Read Order]
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The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday (27th October) directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file an FIR and investigate the allegations of corruption levelled against Uttarakhand's Sitting Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat by a journalist.The Bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani gave this Judgment in the matter wherein one Umesh Sharma (the owner of the local News...

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The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday (27th October) directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file an FIR and investigate the allegations of corruption levelled against Uttarakhand's Sitting Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat by a journalist.

The Bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani gave this Judgment in the matter wherein one Umesh Sharma (the owner of the local News Channel 'Samachar plus') had made a video (in July 2020) related to Rawat's alleged role of getting money transferred to accounts of his relatives in the year 2016 (as BJP's Jharkhand in-charge) to back the appointment of a person (AS Chauhan) in Jharkhand to head the Gau Seva Ayog.

Matter before the Court [FIR No. 265 of 2020]

Pursuant to this, one Dr. Harender Singh Rawat lodged an FIR against Umesh Sharma (The petitioner). The FIR [FIR No. 265 of 2020] was related to the matter wherein the Petitioner shared the above-mentioned news item/video (making allegations of corruption levelled against TSRCM).

In the said news item/video, the Petitioner (Umesh Sharma) showed documents on a computer screen with certain bank accounts allegedly belonging to the respondent no.2/Informant (Dr Harender Singh Rawat) and his wife Smt. Savita Rawat.


The petitioner (Umesh Sharma) claimed that after demonetisation in the year 2016, money was deposited in the accounts of the informant (Dr Harender Singh Rawat) and his wife, which was meant as a bribe for TSRCM.

In the video, the petitioner had also claimed that Smt. Savita Rawat is the real sister of the wife of TSRCM and TSRCM realized bribe money through deposits made in the bank accounts of the informant and his wife.

Thereafter, a plea was moved by the Petitioner (Umesh Sharma) to quash this very FIR, which was registered against him in July 2020 [FIR No. 265 of 2020] by respondent no.2/Informant (Dr Harender Singh Rawat).

Background of FIR No. 100 of 2018

It may be noted that FIR No. 265 of 2020 was not the single case against the petitioner, in fact, many FIRs were registered against the Petitioner in past. But we would only focus on 'FIR No. 100 of 2018', which was also discussed by the Court in depth.

[FIR No. 100 of 2018] - On 10.08.2018, the first informant lodged a report against the petitioner (Umesh Sharma) and four others, which was FIR No. 100 of 2018, under Sections 386, 388, 120B IPC, Police Station Rajpur, District Dehradun.

In this FIR, a former employee of the News Channel Samachar Plus had alleged that Umesh Sharma, along with other people used to conduct sting operations and thereafter these people used to trap ministers and officers through spy camera.

It was alleged that Umesh Sharma doesn't telecast news over his channel and under a pre-planned conspiracy he earns money by blackmailing them.

Court's analysis

It was argued before the Court that in view of the settled legal position, if FIR No. 100 of 2018 and the instant FIR [FIR No. 265 of 2020] was with regard to same cognizance offence or with regard to offences which were committed in the same transaction, definitely the FIR No. 265 of 2020 should not have been registered.

It may be noted that FIR No. 100 of 2018 was lodged broadly with the averments that he (an ex-employee of 'Samachar Plus') was threatened to conduct sting operation for the purposes of "blackmailing", "political instability" "cause disturbance and instability in the State" "bribe to instable the Government", "cause disturbance and violence in the State" etc.

Significantly, the crux of FIR No. 100 of 2018 was that the Petitioner (Umesh Sharma) was involved in a conspiracy to destabilize the State Government and to cause disturbance and violence in the State. The word pre-planned conspiracy was also used in FIR No. 100 of 2018.

Now, if we compare both the FIRs [FIR No. 100 of 2018 & FIR No. 265 of 2020], we would appreciate the fact that the acts are separate, for example, conducting sting through first informant (an ex-employee of 'Samachar Plus'), who filed FIR No. 100 of 2018 and levelling false allegations against the informant (Dr Harender Singh Rawat) by using social media publication (i.e., FIR No. 265 of 2020).

However, the Court noted that in the larger umbrella, according to the State, there was a conspiracy against the State Government. This made the whole transaction one.

In this context, the Court said that if the transaction was one, the Police could have investigated the matter of FIR of 2020 under the previous FIR as well [i.e., FIR No. 100 of 2018] and there was no need of registering another FIR [FIR No. 265 of 2020].

In other words, the Court held that investigation into the allegations as levelled in the FIR of 2020 could have been investigated in FIR No. 100 of 2018 itself because they were allegedly part of the larger conspiracy to create disturbance in the State of Uttarakhand (as per the version of the State).

The Court also clarified that successive FIRs are not permissible with regard to the same offence or offences committed under the same transaction.

Notably, in this FIR of 2020, he was later charged with sedition as well. The state argued that Sharma's intention is to create turmoil in the state.

To this, the Court said that the addition of section 124-A (sedition) manifests that an attempt is being made to "muzzle the voice of criticism" and it is "beyond comprehension why the section was added."

"Whatever the allegations against the petitioner, they do not remotely connect with section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code. An offence under Section 124-A IPC is not, prima-facie, made out. Why this section is added, it's beyond comprehension. Whatever is stated on behalf of the state, on this aspect, has no merit at all," the order further added.

Later on, the Court quashed the FIR after observing that none of the offences under Sections 420, 467, 468, 469, 471, 120B IPC was made out against the Petitioner.

Specifically, the Court observed,

"This Court has considered that no prima facie case is made out in this case against the petitioner and the action of the State is malafide. The FIR in the instant case is liable to be quashed."

On the issue of allegations of Corruption

The Court was of the view that,

"In the instant case, the petitioner has levelled allegations of corruption against TSRCM. He has given Whatsapp messages, recorded conversations, bank deposit receipts and also levelled allegations that certain land was given to Amratesh Singh Chauhan, but these issues were never examined."

The Court further said, "Corruption is such a menace which has penetrated in every realm of life. It appears as if the society has normalised it".

Further, the Court observed,

"Should this Court let the allegations levelled by the petitioner also sink in the memory of the people without them being investigated or should the Court suo motu take some action to get the matter investigated so as to clear the air?"

The Court further deliberated upon the question as to whether the Court can suo moto order for any investigation into allegations of Corruption against TSRCM made by the Journalist.

Notably, the present plea was filed by the Petitioner for quashing FIR etc. Petitioner did not seek any inquiry into the allegations with regard to corruption which he levelled in the social media publication,

In this context, the Court cited the ruling of Apex Court in the case of Bangalore Development Authority Vs. Vijaya Leasing Limited and others (2013) 14 SCC 737, wherein an order passed in absence of a challenge was held valid.

The Court noted that it was not necessary that before lodging of an FIR or order of the investigation, the person against whom FIR is proposed to be lodged or investigation ordered should be made a party.

Significantly, the Court was of the view that.

"Considering the nature of allegations levelled against Trivendra Singh Rawat, the Chief Minister of the State, it would be appropriate to unfold the truth. It would be in the interest of the State that the doubts are cleared."

Therefore, while allowing the petition, the Court proposed for investigation also. In view of the nature of the allegations, the Court was of the view that the CBI should be directed to lodge an FIR on the basis of allegations levelled in the instant petition and investigate the case in accordance with the law.

Conclusion

In view of the aforesaid discussion, the Court held

· The allegations as levelled in the instant FIR [265 of 2020] do not make out any prima-facie case against the petitioners.

· The allegations as levelled in the instant FIR [265 of 2020]could have been further investigated in the FIR No. 100 of 2018. It is, in fact, lodging of Second FIR on the same transaction (i.e. conspiring against the Government of Uttarakhand), which is subject-matter in FIR No. 100 of 2018. Registration of the instant FIR [265 of 2020] is not permissible under law.

· FIR No. 265 of 2020, under Sections 420, 467, 468, 469, 471 and 120B IPC, Police Station Nehru Colony, District Dehradun is hereby quashed.

· Superintendent of Police, CBI Dehradun is directed to register an FIR on the basis of the allegations levelled in the petition and investigate the case in accordance with the law, with promptitude

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]



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