Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has filed a criminal defamation case against Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia over his allegations of corruption in procurement of PPE kit at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The CM’s wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma has already filed a Rs 100 crore defamation suit against Sisodia over the allegations, and now the CM has filed a separate criminal defamation suit.
On June 4th, Manish Sisodia in a press conference had alleged that the Assam govt had issued purchase orders for PPE kits to JCB Industries, a company run by Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, without following due norms. The allegations were based on a report published by leftist propaganda porta The Wire, which had made the same allegations.
The report claimed that when Himanta Biswa Sarma was the health minister in the previous Sarbananda Sonowal govt in Assam, a firm owned by his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma was granted an urgent work order to supply 5,000 PPE kits, despite having no history of supplying or producing medical equipment and safety gears.
Following this, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma had refuted the allegations made in the report by The Wire and said she didn’t take even a penny for the supply of the PPE kits. She said that she had donated the PPE kits to the National Health Mission under CSR, and no payment was taken for the same. She had also produced a letter of acknowledgement from NHM Assam thanking the company for donation of around 1500 PPE kits under Corporate Social Responsibility.
Despite the clarifications issued by Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, Manish Sisodia had gone ahead and levelled corruption allegations against Himanta Biswa Sarma, saying that Himanta Biswa Sarma gave contracts of government purchase to the companies owned by his wife and close associates. It is notable that The Wire report itself had said that while an order was issued to the company for 5000 PPE kits, it was later cancelled, which means no payment was made. But Sisodia had decided to ignore that to attack BJP govt in Assam, in an attempt to help AAP Assam in getting some prominence. The Assam unit of AAP had organised demonstrations against the govt over the issue.
CM Himanta Biswa Sarma had strongly refuted the allegations of the AAP leader, and had said he will see him soon as he will face criminal defamation. He had said that when the entire country was facing the worst pandemic in over 100 years, Assam hardly had any PPE kits. At that time, his wife had donated 1500 kits free of cost to save lives.
Keeping his promise, Himanta Biswa Sarma filed a criminal defamation case against Manish Sisodia on June 30 at the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Kamrup rural. The case has been registered under sections 499 (harming reputation), 500 (defamation) and 501 (publishing defamatory matter) of the Indian Penal Code.
Talking about the suit, Assam’s Advocate General Devajit Lon Saikia, who filed the case on behalf of the CM, said that if Sisodia can’t prove his allegations, he will have to go to jail. The petition said that Manish Sisodia made false comments knowing that they are not true. He said that JCB Industries had not applied for any purchase order, and didn’t receive any money from the govt, they had only donated PPE kits, therefore, all the allegations made by Manish Sisodia against Assam CM and his family are incorrect.
He added that despite knowing the facts of the matter, Sisodia made false allegations, and that’s why the case has been filed against him.
The case was registered by the CJM court on June 30, and court has fixed July 22 as the date for first hearing in the case. The court said that Himanta Biswa Sarma will be make his initial depositions on that day. The AG said that accordingly the CM will present his arguments on July 22.
‘If we can prove that Manish Sisodia made willingly made false comments against Himanta Biswa Sarma, he may be punished with jail term for upto 2 years under IPC sections 499, 500 and 501’, Devajit Lon Saikia added.