All India Congress Committee (AICC) national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil’s appearance as witness before the Gujarat High Court on Thursday was cut short after he chose to withdraw an affidavit, presented in place of his examination-in-chief, in a case related to Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s 2017 victory in the Rajya Sabha elections.
Gohil was appearing as witness in relation to an election petition moved by BJP leader Balwant Rajput, challenging Patel’s victory. The withdrawal came after Justice Bela Trivedi came down heavily on the respondent party’s legal representatives for presenting an affidavit along with other materials, including media reports and copy of transcripts of the statements, allegedly made by the MLAs at the Eagleton Resort, Bengaluru, where the leaders were taken ahead of the election in 2017.
Justice Trivedi was enraged by the fact that Gohil, who was a practising lawyer for 25-30 years, resorted to such an attempt to introduce illegitimate evidence on the court’s records. Petitioner Rajput’s representative and senior counsel Devang Vyas said, “A person who is a lawyer (referring to Gohil) is trying to move away from laid down procedures (of the Evidence Act) and thus (the affidavit) needs to be discarded.”
HC cites Evidence Act, disallows video produced
The court struck down video evidence produced in defence of Ahmed Patel as the Indian Evidence Act requires electronic evidence to be verified for it to be admitted as evidence. The recordings reportedly contain statements of MLAs taken to a resort ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in 2017. The court said Patel did not refer to the video in his statement or deposition, and it also feature persons not cited as witnesses, the court said.
Three other witnesses – Rohan Gupta, Baldevji Thakor and Rajendrasinh Parmar – also tried to introduce the said material on the court’s record but was rejected by the court.
Objecting to Gohil’s affidavit, Vyas argued, “This is the fourth such attempt being made (by the respondent Patel) to produce the CD (as evidence). This is contemptuous in nature. Media reports can’t be admissible as evidence, its veracity is unknown and cannot be proven.”
Justice Trivedi told Ahmed Patel’s legal representatives, “This is sheer abuse and misuse of the process of law. I’m giving you an opportunity to withdraw this (affidavit). There’s a limit!” The respondent party exercised the option thus given by the judge.
Justice Trivedi further noted that 90 per cent of the videographic material sought to be added as evidence featured MLAs who were not cited as witnesses.