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Tables turned on Togadia

Jaipur, April 16: Taking off the velvet gloves, the Congress has turned the tables on Praveen Togadia.

The Congress government in Rajasthan has slapped a sedition charge on Togadia — the most vocal voice of militant nationalism — for defying a ban on distributing trishuls.

The Section invoked against the VHP leader carries charges ranging from waging war against the state to attempting anti-national activity, prompting an Ajmer court to keep him in judicial custody till April 30.

Additional chief judicial magistrate Indu Pareek, before whom Togadia was produced today, said she was rejecting his bail application as he had been booked under Section 121-A of the Indian Penal Code.

Pareek also made it clear the case was beyond her jurisdiction and that the district and sessions court was empowered to hear it, as the punishment under the Act was life imprisonment.

The sedition charge marks a turnaround in the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government which summoned courage to arrest Togadia only after he had completed the trishul initiation programme and left Ajmer for Jaipur. The VHP general secretary was also treated as a VIP in jail.

Togadia was produced before Pareek at 7 this morning.

The prosecution urged the court not to accept Togadia’s bail application as he had defied the ban. But Togadia’s counsel Onkar Singh Lakhawat pleaded that Section 121-A was not mentioned in the original FIR of the police and included later along with three other Sections of the IPC.

Pareek, however, ruled that the defence could move an appropriate court for appeal.

After the proceedings, Lakhawat told reporters their next course of legal action would be finalised later, maybe tomorrow. But Togadia asked his advocate not to file a fresh bail application in view of the new sedition charges.

The BJP and the VHP slammed the Gehlot government. BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan said the government’s action had revealed its “bankruptcy”.

“There is a tradition of distributing symbolic weapons. Trishul is not a weapon of mass destruction but a symbol of devotion,” he told reporters in Delhi.

“I do not know the reasons for which he has been charged with sedition but Praveenbhai is not a rajdrohi, nor is distribution of trishul sedition,” RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat said.

VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore, who addressed a news conference in Ajmer, said the sedition charge was levelled as an afterthought and was mala fide. Togadia, he added, had only urged the people to uproot the state government, which was well within his democratic rights.

VHP president Ashok Singhal will reach Ajmer on Friday to take stock of the latest developments. The state unit of the VHP is planning to move the high court against the inclusion of sedition charges under Section 121-A.

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