Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson K K Mishra was on Friday sentenced to two years in jail in a defamation case for alleging three years ago that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and wife Sadhna Singh played a role in the illegal recruitment of constables in the state’s transport department.
The sessions court judge also levied a fine of Rs 25,000 on Mishra, with the order mandating an additional three months in jail if the sum was not paid — the amount is to be given to the Chief Minister as compensation.
Mishra was released on bail soon after the order was delivered. Senior advocate Ajay Gupta, who defended Mishra, said he would challenge the order in the high court.
The state government had filed the defamation case against Mishra in June 2014 for “making defamatory and false statements against the Chief Minister with an intent to tarnish his image” under sections 499 and 500 of the IPC.
The case was filed after Mishra alleged during a press conference in Bhopal that 19 candidates from Gondia in Maharashtra, where Sadhna Singh hails from, were illegally recruited as constables in the Madhya Pradesh transport department following tests held by the state’s Professional Examination Board (PEB), known popularly by its old Hindi acronym Vyapam.
Government Pleader Anand Tiwari, who had filed the case, had said that Mishra’s “unsubstantiated allegations had lowered the dignity of the Chief Minister who holds a constitutional post”. Tiwari said that the prosecution submitted the complete list of transport constables recruited and that none of them was from Maharashtra.
During the hearing of the case, the Chief Minister appeared in the court twice to record his statements. Newspaper reporters who were present at the press conference were also summoned as witnesses.
Mishra’s advocate argued that the statements were not defamatory because his client did not make any direct allegations. He said that Mishra had raised questions over the investigation and sought an inquiry into the recruitment of “certain persons from Gondia”.
On Friday, Chouhan described the judgment as the “victory of truth”. The Chief Minister had also filed a defamation case against Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Ajay Singh for raising similar allegations. In Mishra’s case, however, the case was filed by the government on Chouhan’s behalf.
Mishra said in a statement that he had anticipated the verdict. “This must be the only verdict that punishes someone for exposing corruption and not those indulging in corruption,’’ he said.
The allegations are related to recruitment for government jobs, referred to as the Vyapam scam, that rocked the state government at the time.
In the latest development in a case linked to Vyapam, the CBI held on October 31 that there was no truth in the allegation by senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh that a hard disk seized from Vyapam official Nitin Mahindra, the main accused, was tampered with to remove Chouhan’s name.
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