Srinagar: A district court in Ladakh is likely to decide Wednesday whether or not to direct police to file an FIR against two BJP leaders for allegedly offering bribes to journalists at a press conference in Leh on 2 May “to influence the outcome of the elections”.
The matter reached the court after Leh police filed a non-cognisable report in the court Tuesday following a preliminary investigation conducted by the Leh deputy commissioner’s office into the allegations. The probe suggested that accusations made by the Ladakh journalists against the BJP leaders might have some credence.
Leh Deputy Commissioner Anvy Lavasa said the court is likely to announce its decision on whether to file an FIR against BJP state president Ravinder Raina and MLC Vikram Randhawa, both of whom were present at the press conference.
Randhawa is accused of personally handing over envelopes containing cash to journalists while Raina watched.
ThePrint Wednesday tried to reach Raina for comments, but his phone was switched off.
On 2 May, some Ladakh-based journalists had alleged that the BJP leaders had offered them money in envelopes “to influence the outcome of the elections”.
The incident took place four days before the fifth and the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu & Kashmir. The Ladakh division voted on 6 May and the Leh Press Club filed a complaint with the local police and the deputy commissioner on 3 May.
“We had directed the local police to file a report in the matter. We have sought directions for registration of an FIR. The court has not issued any order yet, but is likely to do so today,” said Lavasa, who is also the Leh District Election Officer.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Leh, Sargun Shukla confirmed the filing of the non-cognisable report in the court and added they would wait for the directions of the court before taking further action.
ThePrint had on 5 May reported that authorities in Ladakh had taken the CCTV footage from the hotel where the press conference was held by the BJP leaders. Officials in the J&K administration had said that authorities concerned were examining the footage.
Asked if the CCTV footage was part of the evidence against the BJP leaders, Lavasa refused to comment.
Video on social media
Meanwhile, a video of the BJP leaders offering white envelopes to journalists surfaced on social media Tuesday.
The footage shows a person resembling Raina interacting with the journalists while Randhawa hands over the envelopes to reporters. One reporter is seen opening the envelope and immediately returning it.
‘BJP’s claims not true’
The Leh Press Club said journalists in the region are waiting for the decision of the court.
“We have been informed that the report has been filed in the court and a decision is likely to come soon. We are waiting for the decision,” said Morup Stanzin, president of Leh Press Club.
Stanzin said the BJP’s claims that the envelopes contained invitation card to an event were not true.
“In the video, it is clearly seen that journalists returned the envelopes as soon as they discovered there was money in it. Why would we return an invitation card? Does that make any sense,” asked Stanzin.
BJP state general secretary Ashok Kaul had claimed the envelopes contained press invites to an event that was to be attended by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
BJP trying to destroy democracy’s fourth pillar, says PDP
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Ved Mahajan Wednesday slammed the BJP, stating that after demolishing the country’s vital institutions, the party is now out to destroy democracy’s fourth pillar.
In a statement, Mahajan said “such actions by the BJP reflect the party’s mindset towards the vital and important institutions of democracy and how the party is out to defame and destroy one of the honest and sincere professions of the world”.
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