The Gujarat High Court (HC) on Monday quashed and set aside a magistrate court’s order with regard to the registration of a criminal case against Gujarat Home Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during the Assembly polls in 2007.
Jadeja had moved the Gujarat HC seeking the quashing of the magistrate court’s order dated December 21, 2019, wherein the latter had directed for the registration of a criminal case against Jadeja in a MCC violation case in connection with the 2007 Assembly polls, when he was contesting from Asarwa Assembly constituency in Ahmedabad. Jadeja was summoned to face trial before the court.
The criminal inquiry case at the magisterial court was filed on behalf of the then returning officer at the Asarwa constituency, Prakash Makwana, after then Congress Ahmedabad city chief, Pankaj Shah, had complained to the district election office that Jadeja had distributed pamphlets with his photo, party symbol and slogan “Aapnu Gujarat, Aagvu Gujarat (Our Gujarat, Unique Gujarat)”, but did not contain the publisher and the printer’s name, as is stipulated.
The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Jignesh Damodra, in his 2019 order, recorded that following the collector’s and district election officer of Ahmedabad’s complaint on October 25, 2007, a police investigation report was submitted on December 30, 2007.
The verdict passed by the court of Justice Ilesh Vora at the Gujarat HC on Monday held that the concerned police’s inquiry report at the time had found no material to show that it was Jadeja who had “distributed and published the offending material (pamphlet),” and thus, the inquiry report “technically can be termed as ‘closure report’”.
Justice Vora added in his order that while the magistrate “is not bound by the report,” “there must be even a prima-facie material against the applicant (Jadeja) before he is summoned to face the trial.” The court also held that the said distributed material does not qualify as an election pamphlet as is defined. The HC was of the opinion that the “…Magistrate has committed grave error while issuing summon and passed the order to register complaint against the applicant (Jadeja) to face the trial under the provisions of… the (Representation of People) Act… Magistrate, while directing to register complaint and issuing summon against the applicant…., has not at all properly applied its mind to the facts whether the offending material – pamphlet can be said to be an ”election pamphlet” or not… In light of the provisions of law as well as facts of the complaint and in support of material evidence, this Court is of the view that the trial Court failed to consider the facts and applicable law in its proper perspective and without any basis initiated judicial process mechanically against the applicant (Jadeja).”
“…the continuation of proceedings against the applicant to face the trial for aforesaid offences would be nothing but abuse of process of law and harassment and this is a fit case to exercise the power…to quash the impugned order… as well as proceedings of Criminal Case…,” the HC noted.
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