Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel deposed before the Gujarat High Court for the fourth day on Tuesday when the petitioner’s advocate placed news clips before him as evidence to challenge his stand that he had no idea about MLAs being taken to Bengaluru. At one point Patel told the court that he was “almost 70 years old” which is why he could not remember everything.
Patel was testifying in relation to an election petition moved by BJP leader Balwantsinh Rajput, challenging Patel’s Rajya Sabha election victory in 2017. Patel won closely fought contest against Rajput, who was earlier a Congress leader, and switched sides after getting a BJP ticket to contest the RS election.
Assistant Solicitor General Satya Pal Jain, who is appearing for the petitioner Rajput in his personal capacity, showed several news clips, played via pendrive, in the court of Justice Bela Trivedi. The newsclips from ABP News, NewsX and CNNNews18 purportedly chronicled Patel’s movements from the early morning of August 7, 2017 until the morning of August 8, 2017, before voting began at the state’s assembly premises in Gandhinagar.
Patel showed four such clips – one of Patel purportedly at the airport, another of Patel giving a byte to ANI while sitting in a car, a media address by Patel in a background of daylight and another where Patel is seen speaking to a reporter of CNNNews18.
Referring to the clip where Patel is seen addressing mediapersons, Jain asked Patel, “At which place and date and at what time was this address?,” to which Patel replied, “This was outside the Anand resort on the evening of August 7, 2017. I don’t remember the exact time but this was before sunset.”
Jain, however countered Patel’s admission. Jain said, “Yesterday (on Monday, during deposition) you said, you must have gone to Anand at around 9.30 pm and then left in an hour or so. Which of the two statement is true?” Patel replied with, “I can’t say exactly, this is from two years ago.”
Showing a photograph where Patel is seen addressing the media purportedly outside the Anand resort, taken in daylight, Jain said, “Yesterday you said the photo was one from the morning of August 8, 2017?” Patel answered, “I’m almost 70 years old, my memory is not as sharp as that of my learned friend (Jain). I can’t remember.”
In one of the newsclips of CNNNews18, a reporter was seen asking Patel, “Do you think on hindsight, you made it a prestige battle by taking them (44 MLAs) all the way to Bengaluru and then you bring them back over here, what was the need for it?” Patel is heard stating, “That was compulsion. They (BJP) forced us to do that thing. They tried to poach our MLAs, they used the government machinery, surveillance was going on, they harassed the family members of the MLAs. So what other option was there before us!” Patel said he did not remember the conversation.
Patel has been repeatedly and consistently denying having knowledge of 44 MLAs being taken to Bengaluru at the time or of any party decision regarding the same.
Patel’s lawyers, BB Naik and PS Champaneri, raised objections with respect to cross-examination, seeking that the provision of section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, be not applied in the case of Patel’s deposition. The provision relates to cross-examination vis-a-vis previous statements in writing. The deposition concluded on Tuesday after four days.