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Congress' UP chief denied bail

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow/Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: July 16, 2009 17:38 IST
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A district court on Thursday denied interim bail to Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who was arrested on Wednesday night for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Chief Minister Mayawati, and fixed the hearing of her plea for Friday.

Joshi had approached the court after Chief Judicial Magistrate K K Shrivastava had turned down her bail plea and remanded her to judicial custody for 14 days on Thursday morning.

Additional District Judge (II) Sudha Sharma put off the hearing on Joshi's bail application till Friday as the case diary could not be submitted by the police.

Joshi has been booked under section 153 A (delivering inflammatory speeches) and section 109 of the Indian Penal Code (using abusive language), besides provisions of Scheduled Caste /Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, for making allegedly defamatory remarks against Mayawati in connection with her government's compensation to rape victims.

The Congress leader had sought bail, contending that the offences against her were not cognisable. She had also cited ill-health as a ground in her application.

The defence lawyers had sought interim bail for her till Friday, citing higher court rulings, but their plea was turned down by the ADJ, who posted the matter for 10.30 am on Friday.

While Joshi claimed that she had simply condemned Mayawati for doling out a paltry sum of Rs 25,000 as compensation to Dalit rape victims, UP's Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal told reporters, "Mrs Joshi was arrested for making certain objectionable remarks that were violative of various provisions of law."

According to him, while referring to the compensation being given to rape victims, the UPCC chief had allegedly said, "If Mayawati were to face similar circumstances, I could shell out a compensation of Rs 1 crore."

The state police claim to have a recording of Joshi's 'objectionable' speech.

Though Bahuguna Joshi has expressed regret for her remarks and apologised to Mayawati, Joshi accused the chief minister and the members of Bahujan Samaj Party of instigating violence at her residence in Lucknow, and termed it as a conspiracy against her.

In New Delhi, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the UP government's action was an act of complete desperation and personal vendetta against Joshi. Manish Tiwari, another Congress spokesman, said Mayawati was resorting to strong arm tactics.

"With the kind of lawlessness that prevails in UP, you can make out a case for anybody for anything," Tiwari said, adding one cannot draw any conclusions from an FIR.

"Ransacking the house of the UPCC chief is going to be the last nail in the coffin of the Mayawati government -- you mark my words today," he said.

The UP Congress chief had on Wednesday night charged Mayawati with setting her house in Lucknow on fire.

"There should be an FIR filed against her (Mayawati) and she should be arrested. This jungle law in UP should be brought to an end," she said.

Congress leader Digvijay Singh distanced himself from Bahuguna Joshi's comments by stating that the party did not agree with some of her statements. Singh met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi today morning to discuss the case, which has triggered a massive political controversy.

"Mrs Bahuguna had apologised to the UP chief minister and if she wants to go ahead with a legal case, she can do so," he said.

Joshi's house on Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg in a high security zone, a stone's throw from the Chief Minister's secretariat, was attacked on Wednesday night, allegedly by masked BSP activists. A portion of the house was also set on fire and vehicles burnt.

Akhilesh Yadav, president of Samajwadi Party's UP unit, said that there were many examples in the state where the SC/ST Act has been falsely invoked. There has been a complete breakdown of law and order in UP, he said adding that the start police has been acting on the orders of the BSP.

The Bharatiya Janata Party described the attack on Bahuguna Joshi's house as 'a mock fight' between the two parties to win Dalit votes and to divert the attention of the people from more serious issues like drought and price rise.

"The BJP neither approves of Joshi's speech nor of the violent reaction of the BSP. It is concerned that real issues are not being addressed," BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.

"This incident is not for the welfare or security of the Dalits but a mock fight between the Congress and the BSP in their clamour for Dalit votes," he added.

With additional inputs from PTI
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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow/Onkar Singh in New Delhi