Saturday, June 10, 2023

Assam CM, wife summoned by court for poll code violation in 2019

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his wife Riniki Bhuyan, who is the chairman-cum-managing director of an Assamese news channel, have been summoned by the chief judicial magistrate of Kamrup Metropolitan for alleged violation of the model code of conduct during the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.
Kamrup Metropolitan Chief Judicial Magistrate A K Baruah in an order dated February 11 asked both the accused to appear before the court on February 25.
The case was filed by the additional chief electoral officer in May 2019 against Sarma, who was a minister holding several portfolios in former chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s cabinet, and the News Live TV Channel for allegedly violating model code of conduct.
The Election department had filed the case after receiving complaints from the then president and general secretary of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee on April 10, 2019.
The judge in his order said that on perusal of the documents there is prima facie material under section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of People’s Act against Mr Sarma and his wife to take cognizance of the offence mentioned above.
The section says that broadcasters shall not broadcast any “election matter” i.e. any matter intended or calculated to influence or affect the result of an election during the 48 hours ending with the hours fixed for the conclusion of polling.
The order noted that as per the complaint, Mr Sarma and the News Live Channel, which owned by Pride East Entertainments Pvt Ltd represented by the then chairman-cum-managing director, violated the model code of conduct of Lok Sabha election.
The channel, of which Riniki Bhuyan Sarma is now the chairman and managing director, had telecast a live interview of the present chief minister at 7.55 PM on April 10, 2019, which was within 48 hours of the first phase of polls scheduled on April 11.
The allegation or the case of the complainant therefore comes under the purview of section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of People’s Act i.e, as per the complaint petition and the documents submitted by the complainant Sarma and his wife prima facie committed the offence, the order said.
The CJM before issuing the summons considered that Sarma now holds the post of the state chief minister and at the time of the alleged offence was holding the post of a minister.
“Hence, a question arises whether sanction is required in this case before taking cognizance of the offence against the accused Himanta Biswa Sarma holding the post of chief minister,” he noted.
CJM said that after going through the entire materials on record that the alleged offence of the case was not committed Sarma while discharging his duty as a minister or public servant though he was a minister then.
“Thereby, this act of the accused though he was/is the minister/chief minister of (the) state of Assam, does not come under his official duty. Hence, sanction is not required before issuing summons to Himanta Biswa Sarma as an accused in this case and there is no bar to proceed against the accused,” he added.
The judge also directed the complainant side to take steps immediately.



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