Smriti, Pankaja in trouble too

Smriti, Pankaja in trouble too

The BJP faced further embarrassment on Wednesday after a local court in Delhi agreed to hear a petition accusing HRD Minister Smriti Irani of misrepresenting her educational qualification in election affidavits.

The setback comes at a time when two other top BJP leaders, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, are embroiled in a controversy surrounding disgraced former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.

The complaint, filed by freelance writer Ahmer Khan, stated that Smriti had given different details regarding her educational qualification in three different affidavits before the Election Commission while filing nominations for contesting three different polls–two for the Lok Sabha and one Rajya Sabha.

In her affidavit for the April 2004 Lok Sabha polls from Chandni Chowk here, Smriti declared that she completed BA in 1996 through a correspondence programme from the Delhi University (DU). 

Whereas, in another affidavit in July 2011 for contesting the Rajya Sabha polls from Gujarat, she declared that her highest educational qualification was BCom (part I) from the School of Correspondence, DU.

Finally, while filing the nomination from Amethi to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Smriti stated that she completed  BCom from the School of Open Learning, DU.

Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain said: “It is held that the present complaint case is filed under limitation (of time). Cognizance is taken.”

The matter was posted for August 28 “for pre-summoning evidence” which means that the court would examine evidence supplied by Khan before deciding to proceed further.

“It’s not a problem to be less educated or be uneducated... but it’s a big issue that she is not being honest despite being the human resources development minister,” said Khan.

If convicted under Section 125A of Representation of Peoples Act for filing a false affidavit, Smriti will face a sentence of up to six months or fine or both. The Opposition has  demanded her resignation.

“It is apparent that the HRD minister is lying about her own education. What will happen to the future of millions of children in the country. She has no moral, Constitutional or legal right to continue even for a day,” said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala. He also dragged Minister of State for HRD Ram Shankar Katheria into the controversy as his educational credentials  is also under cloud. 
Surjewala said that it is “unfortunate” that the senior and junior HRD ministers academic qualification is under probe.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is already on the back foot after former law minister Jitender Singh Tomar was jailed for possessing a fake degree, demanded that Smriti should be sacked.

“There cannot be two yardsticks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said neither is he corrupt nor shall he allow corruption. The rule of law is same for everybody. If they believe Tomar should be arrested, why not Smriti Irani?” said AAP leader Ashutosh said.

BJP leader Shrikant Sharma, however, said that the Congress does not have the moral right to question Smriti’s academic background as their party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s election affidavits have come under suspicion in the past.

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