Jaipur: The Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan Police on Tuesday dropped sedition charges slapped against two rebel Congress MLAs who supported Sachin Pilot – Bhawarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh – and Union minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet Gajendra Singh Shekhawat after three audio tapes were leaked on social media last month.
These tapes purportedly featured Sharma and Singh talking to Bharatiya Janata Party minister Shekhawat and another BJP intermediary named Sanjay Jain about their plan to topple the ruling Congress government in Rajasthan.
In one of these tapes, Sharma purportedly told Jain in Marwari that they would soon achieve the support of 30 MLAs, to which he replied that this would easily pull down the Ashok Gehlot government.
Shekhawat was purportedly heard saying that the MLAs should continue to stay at the hotel until they manage to get other MLAs.
In another tape, Sharma purportedly said that the Pilot-supporting MLAs in Delhi have received the first instalment of money.
As the tapes went viral, the SOG on July 17 filed two FIRs under IPC Sections 124A (sedition) and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) – one against unnamed accused and the other against Sharma, Jain and Shekhawat.
Prior to this, another FIR was lodged by the SOG on July 10 under sedition and criminal conspiracy charges, in which the investigative agency had sent a notice to Pilot asking him to record his statement in connection with the matter. This was assumed to be the primary reason for his rebellion against the Gehlot government.
In a statement issued by the SOG on Tuesday, it said that the sedition charge has been withdrawn from all three cases and they are now being transferred to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
This move seems to be yet another step towards Gehlot’s reconciliation with the Pilot camp. A few days ago, he had publicly mentioned “forgiving” the rebel MLAs if the “high command decides” to do so.
However, it must be noted that rebel MLA Sharma, who was named in the FIR, had moved a petition before the Rajasthan high court to either quash the FIR against him or transfer it to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Transferring the case to the NIA would have meant that the state government would no longer be able to keep the investigation under its control.
During the hearing of this petition on Tuesday, the SOG said that it is dropping sedition charges in the three FIRs and transferring the cases to the ACB.
Sharma’s counsel, Swadeep Singh Hora, called the SOG attempt “malafide”. He said, “So many [police] teams were sent [to the hotel in Manesar where the Pilot camp MLAs including Sharma was staying] and created such a big drama, when they knew from day one that offence is not made out.”