In a set-back to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, a court in Delhi has taken cognisance of the petition alleging discrepancies relating to her educational qualifications disclosed in her affidavit submitted before the Election Commission of India. The court while accepting the plea as “maintainable” has set 28th August as the next date for further hearing in the matter.
“It is held that the present complaint case is filed under limitation (of time). Cognizance is taken. The matter be now fixed for pre-summoning evidence on August 28,” the magistrate said while pronouncing the order.
The court will now hear the ‘evidence’ and materials put forth by the petitioner, Ahmer Khan, in order to decide if the Union minister needs to be summoned in the matter or not.
The matter reached before the court after Khan, a freelance writer, filed a petition alleging that Smriti Irani has made contradictory claims about her college education in documents filed with the ECI.
According to him, Union minister Smriti Irani had first furnished in 2004 Lok Sabha polls that she completed her BA degree in 1996 from the School of Correspondence, University of Delhi. But when she had filed her affidavit for Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat and also for the 2014 General Elections, she had disclosed her educational qualification as Bachelor’s degree in Commerce Part-I from School of Open Learning, DU. Further the year of her ‘degree’ was 1994.
With the court now taking cognisance of the matter, the petitioner has claimed that the court has found merit in his plea.
“It is a victory of people. I will now present before the court facts and evidence I have collected in the matter,” Ahmer Khan told the press outside the Patiala House court in New Delhi.
Already facing questions over Lalit Modi controversy, the current development may just bring some unease for Narendra Modi government, especially with Congress party now also seeking Smriti Irani’s resignation.
“She has no moral, political and legal right to continue as a minister. We demand her immediate resignation. It is a serious matter that both Education minister and the MoS HRD are facing allegations of fake degrees,” said Congress party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
“The very fact that court has called this plea maintainable shows that it is convinced that there is a prima facie against Smriti Irani in this matter,” another spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
On its part, the ruling BJP took a defensive posture. Party spokesperson Nalin Kohli said, “There is no need for Ms Irani to step down as the court has merely said that the plea is maintainable”.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too has made a demand for HRD Minister’s resignation.