Wednesday, March 22, 2023
North East

PPE kit row: Himanta files defamation case against Sisodia over corruption charges

Guwahati, July 1: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has filed a defamation case against Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia for levelling baseless corruption charges against him in connection with the supply of PPE kits at “higher than market rates” to National Health Mission authorities during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarma’s advocate said on Friday.
The case has been registered in the court of chief judicial magistrate, Kamrup Rural, on Thursday and listed on July 22 for initial deposition by the complainant, he said.
The case pertains to the allegation of supply of PPE kits at higher than market rates during the first wave of COVID-19 to National Health Mission (NHM), Assam, by JCB Industries, which is co-owned by Sarma’s wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma.
Bhuyan Sarma had also filed a Rs 100-crore defamation case against Sisodia at the court of Civil Judge No 1 of Kamrup Metropolitan district on June 21, over the same allegations made by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader.
Manish Sisodia had levelled corruption charges against Himanta Biswa Sarma at a press conference in New Delhi on June 4. He had specifically claimed that NHM had procured PPE kits at inflated rates from a company co-owned by Sarma’s wife during his tenure as the state’s health minister in 2020, Sarma’s advocate Devojit Saikia said.
Saikia maintained that the JCB Industries did not participate in any bid to supply PPE kits to NHM, Assam, nor did it raise any bill.
At that time (March 2020), the NHM, Assam, had requested for PPE kits to fight the pandemic which had just started. The JCB Industries gave about 1500 PPE kits but it was not under any contract. It was part of their Corporate Social Responsibility activities, he asserted.
The senior advocate claimed that no payment was made to JCB Industries for the PPE kits and the baseless allegations against Sarma were made out of political vendetta .
Saikia said, On being aggrieved by the allegations levelled against him and not receiving any clarification on the matter later, Sarma decided to seek legal remedy and file a criminal defamation case.
Sarma had said he would file a defamation case against the Aam Aadmi Party leader soon after the allegations were levelled by Sisodia at the press conference.
On June 1, two digital media organisations in a joint investigative report claimed that the Assam government had placed four COVID-19 related emergency medical supply orders, most likely without following proper process .
Subsequently, the opposition Congress, Raijor Dal and the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) had separately demanded a high-level probe by CBI, ED or any other central agency into the alleged irregularities in supply of PPE kits in 2020 by firms linked to Sarma’s wife when he was the health minister in the previous BJP government in the state. (PTI)