Srinagar: High Court of J&K and Ladakh Tuesday dismissed former Congress MLA Muhammad Amin Bhat’s plea seeking scraping of a defamation complaint filed against him by PDP leader Sartaj Madani before Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Anantnag in 2018 and the subsequent criminal proceedings.
Dismissing Bhat’s petition, a bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar said: “It is clear that the averments made in the complaint and the material in support thereof clearly disclose commission of offence under Section 500 RPC against the petitioner (Bhat).
The Court observed that the Magistrate has after applying his mind to the complaint as well as the preliminary statement of the complainant (Madni) and his witness, recorded satisfaction that the offence under section 500 RPC was made out against the petitioner.
Therefore, the court said, no fault can be found with the order passed by the magistrate passed on 20.08.2018 whereby process has been issued against the petitioner (Bhat).
The court said that it was not open to it to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 561-A of J&K Cr P C to quash the complaint and the proceedings emanating there from.
Dismissing the petition “without any merit, the Bench said: “The trial court shall proceed ahead with the case in accordance with law.”
Madani had filed the complaint in 2018 before CJM Anantnag against Bhat who was then a member of the erstwhile J&K Legislative Assembly from Devsar constituency in Anantnag.
In his complaint, Madani, a two-time member of the State Legislative Assembly and former Deputy Speaker of the erstwhile State Legislative Assembly, alleged that on 14 July 2018 the then Congress MLA addressed two public meetings, one at Devsar and another at Kund.
According to Madni’s compliant, Bhat said that he (Madni) accumulated property worth Rs10,000 crores by looting poor people and he got loan amount of Rs 40 lakhs waived off. Bhat had also alleged that Madani ensured allotment of project worth Rs 200 crores to his son at Anantnag without undertaking any tendering process for construction of Medical College at Larkipora and also received bribe of Rs.10 lakhs for each appointment in J&K Bank besides received an amount of rupees one crore from every officer. Bhat is also alleged to have stated that Madani has accumulated assets at Chandigarh, Delhi, Jammu, Pahalgam and Bihar.
On the basis of the averments made in the complaint, the CJM had taken cognizance of offence against the Bhat and issued process against him in terms of order on 20 August 2018.
Bhat challenged the order of CJM before the High court with the contention that at the relevant time he was a member of the Legislative Assembly and as such no cognizance of offence could have been taken against him without sanction for prosecution from the competent authority. He also contended that the alleged defamatory statements were made by him at Devsar and Kund and both these places are located in District Kulgam, thus the CJM, Anantnag, did not have territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint.
With regard to the contention that the petitioner at the relevant time was an MLA, as such, no cognizance of offence could have been taken against him without sanction for prosecution from the competent authority, the Court said: “ it is clear that an MLA is not a public servant within the meaning of Section 21 of RPC and, as such, there was no requirement for prior sanction for prosecution of the petitioner as the provisions of Section 197 of J&K Cr. P. C are not attracted to the case”.
The Court also did not agree with other grounds raised by Bhat for quashing the criminal proceedings against him.