The arrest of former Delhi Law Minister Jitender Tomar for allegedly forging his academic degrees has inadvertently brought the spotlight back on Union Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Irani. For those who are unaware, Irani was found to have made contradictory and self-incriminatory statements under oath about her education qualification in affidavits filed along with nomination papers for the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 and 2014. Before she contested from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi in 2004, Irani had declared, under oath, her academic qualifications as “B.A. 1996 Delhi University (School of Correspondence)”. However, in the affidavit filed before the Election Commission for the 2014 elections, Irani had stated that she had done her “Bachelor of Commerce Part-1, School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi-1994”. Tomar, meanwhile, was accused of lying under oath about his educational qualifications in the affidavit filed in this year’s Delhi Assembly elections and forging the documents. Under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the penalty of filing a false affidavit is “imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both”. At present, a Delhi court is hearing the case that has been filed against Irani under The Representation of the People Act.
Although both cases are currently sub-judice, the Delhi police felt the urgency to arrest Tomar in full public view and keep him in four days of police custody, even though he has cooperated with the investigation and resigned from his post. Meanwhile, Irani continues to run a significant Union Ministry, with no diligent inquiry by the Delhi Police, which functions under the Centre’s Ministry of Home Affairs. Therefore, while Tomar faces the full force of the law, the Union Human Resource Development Minister gets away with obfuscating her own education qualifications by submitting conflicting affidavits. However, this is not to suggest that Tomar should be let off if found guilty. The issue here is that different standards are being applied to those accused of the same crime. In the large scheme of things, the quick-fire arrest of Tomar was an indication of the ongoing political tussle between the Centre (via its proxy Najeeb Jung) and Kejriwal. Despite the Centre’s constant denials, it is evident that the Narendra Modi led government is trying to exercise its might through the bureaucracy and the police. The arrest, allied with the Centre’s notifications on the Delhi government’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, seeks to ensure that Kejriwal and his team are unable to function independently, despite the stupendous mandate that the Aam Aadmi Party had garnered in the last assembly elections in Delhi.
Earlier this year, the Aam Aadmi Party had stormed to an astounding victory in the Delhi assembly elections, winning 67 out 70 assembly seats and securing a whopping 54 percent vote share. The victory was more than a mere landslide. It was the complete rejection of the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The arrest and all the hoopla surrounding it have only confirmed the suspicion that the BJP led Centre is having a hard time accepting the resounding rejection it received from the people of Delhi.