Delhi Court sets aside criminal proceedings against Trinamool Congress Abhishek Banerjee under Section 125A of Representation of People Act

Delhi High Court
Bar and Bench

Synopsis: Banerjee allegedly provided misleading details about his affidavit submitted for educational qualification for the Lok Sabha Elections, 2014.

The criminal proceedings against Abhishek Banerjee, leader of the Trinamool Congress and Member of Parliament, were set aside by the Delhi Court for allegedly presenting misleading details on his educational qualifications in the nomination papers for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

In a revision petition favoured by Banerjee against orders passed by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM), Rouse Avenue, the Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Kumar Kuhar passed the order.

Abhishek Banerjee
Hindustan Times

After a criminal complaint was filed by Sarthak Chaturvedi for the breach of Section 125A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, the ACMM summoned Banerjee.

As per the complaint, Banerjee issued false details about his educational qualifications while filing his nomination for the 2014 General Elections from the Diamond Harbour constituency, Kolkata, West Bengal.

It was reported that in 2009, when IIPM was not even a recognised university and had no power to obtain any degree, Banerjee had demonstrated himself as an MBA from IIPM.

Banerjee challenged ACMM’s order of cognizance and summons order on the ground that not only was the complaint delayed pursuant to Section 468(2) CrPC, but Delhi courts did not have territorial jurisdiction because the act of filing the allegedly false information was committed in Kolkata.

Banerjee also explained that he had never claimed that he had been awarded a “degree” by IIPM and he had simply stated that he had completed his MBA from IIPM.

It was also claimed that the complainant did not have a position to file a complaint because he was neither a Diamond Harbour Constituency voter nor a candidate.

In view of the parties’ submissions, the court held that under Section 125A RP Act, any “aggrieved person” could file a complaint and any person could set the criminal law in motion.

The Court found, however that the Delhi court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the complaint.

The Court claimed that the act of determination was the filing in Kolkata of an allegedly false affidavit and not the result of Banerjee becoming an MP in Delhi.

The Court stated that with regard to the applicability of Section 179 CrPC, there is no relation or nexus between the filing of the affidavit in Kolkata and the revisionist (Banerjee) being elected and being an MP. The act of filing an affidavit is a single act that was complete when the affidavit was filed and would attract Section 125A if the averments in the affidavit was false, when it is filed with the returning officer of the Constituency concerned.

The Court also found that the restriction of the complaint was prohibited as it was filed after more than one year, after the date on which the affidavit was filed.

The Court concluded that what Banerjee had stated in the affidavit was a ‘statement of fact’ with regard to the merits of the complaint.

The Court also declined to acknowledge the existence of a “continuing offence” because it held that the filing of the nomination was a separate act and a separate cause of action for the 2019 Lok Sabha Election.

Finally, the Court ruled that the complaint did not constitute an offence under Section 125A of the RP Act and set aside the order for Banerjee to be notified and summoned.