New Delhi: Opposition parties on Wednesday demanded the removal of HRD Minister Smriti Irani, saying she has no "moral, constitutional or legal" right to continue in her post after a Delhi court took cognisance of a complaint that she gave false information about her educational qualification.
But ruling BJP tried to downplay the issue and insisted that it was different from the one involving former Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar, who is facing allegations of providing fake academic qualifications in his poll affidavit.
"It is apparent that the country's education minister is lying about her own education. What will happen to the future of millions of children in the country. Irani has no moral, constitutional or legal right to continue in her post for even a day," said Congress's chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala.
He claimed that Irani had in 2004 submitted an election affidavit stating she had received a bachelor's degree in Arts in 1996 from Delhi University. But, in 2011, when she filed a Rajya Sabha nomination from Gujarat, she stated that she holds a B.Com degree of 1994 from DU, he added.
In 2014, in her nomination papers for the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, she had said she is a B.Com graduate of DU's School of Open Learning.
"After a court has prima facie found a cognisable case against her, we demand that Irani must resign forthwith or be dismissed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he said.
Surjewala said it was "unfortunate" that there are question marks over the educational degrees of both the HRD Minister and the Minister of State in the ministry under Modi government. MoS HRD, Ram Shankar Katheria, has been accused of mark-sheet forgery.
"How does Modi government propose to run education when the educational degrees of the education ministers themselves are under question. Naturally, under any investigation, DU comes under HRD ministry. Definitely as Education Minister, she will influence the conduct and course of investigation," he said.
A Delhi court today took cognisance of a complaint filed against Irani for allegedly giving false information about her educational qualification. Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain took cognisance of the complaint and fixed the matter for recording of pre-summoning evidence on August 28.
Drawing parallels with the case of former Delhi law minister Jitender Tomar, Aam Aadmi Party, too, demanded the removal of the HRD minister and said there cannot be two "yardsticks" in such matters.
"There cannot be two yardsticks. The Prime Minister had said he does not take bribe and does not let others accept it either.
"He also said that neither does he engage in corruption nor does he let it happen. The rule of law is the same for everybody, the Constitution and democracy are same for everybody. If they believe Tomar should be arrested, why not Irani," said AAP leader Ashutosh.
Ashutosh claimed that the court has found it maintainable and there will be a case against her.
"She is a Cabinet minister and holds a very influential position. If she is out, she can tamper with evidence.
"In the Tomar case, they (Delhi Police) arrested him. I do not see any reason why Delhi Police should not arrest Irani. In the Tomar case, as the case developed, AAP asked him to resign. Will Narendra Modi as Prime Minister ask her to resign. Will Irani be arrested by Delhi Police," he asked.
Meanwhile, BJP sought to downplay the issue and argued that the HRD Minister's case was different from that of Tomar.
"You cannot compare oranges and apples. In the case of Tomar, there is a police investigation which has proved beyond doubt that there is a criminal act of a fake degree, going ahead and contesting an election on it and then accepting the post of law minister," said BJP leader Nalin Kohli.
He said that in the Irani case, the court has spoken about maintainability, which is the first step in the legal process as to whether there is grounds in terms of jurisdiction or whether the court will allow the proceedings to go on.
"It is neither an implication on conviction nor exoneration," he said. In court, there is a standard challenge of maintainability and the court judges that, he added.
The complaint was filed by freelance writer Ahmer Khan, who alleged that Irani, in three affidavits submitted to Election Commission while filing nominations for Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha polls, had purportedly given inconsistent details about her educational qualification.
Updated Date: Jun 25, 2015 08:00 AM