Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's personal secretary Sandeep Singh approached the Allahabad High Court on Friday, seeking anticipatory bail in a case filed against him and UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu for alleged cheating and forgery in a list of 1,000 buses sent to the state government to ferry migrant workers home.
Singh, Lallu and "others" were booked by Hazratganj police on May 19 for cheating and forging documents, after the UP government said about 100 vehicles on the Congress list were not buses and 297 lacked either a fitness certificate or valid insurance papers. Congress rejected the claim.
On Friday, Justice Rajesh Singh Chauhan of the high court's Lucknow bench asked the police to submit the case diary and fixed the next date of hearing for June 17.
Singh's senior lawyer JN Mathur, who was assisted by advocate Nadeem Murtaza, argued that there was no case of criminality against his client and the FIR was a "political vendetta".
The controversy around the Congress list containing registration numbers of autorickshaws, cars and trucks had led to a massive war of words between the party and the UP government. Lallu and other party workers staged a dharna and argued with policemen at the UP-Rajasthan border, where the party said it had massed the buses awaiting permission to enter Agra district during the coronavirus lockdown.
Lallu was arrested following the dharna but was granted bail by an Agra court. He was rearrested by Lucknow police in connection with the forgery case.
The row erupted on May 16 when Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi offered to provide 1,000 buses to ferry migrant workers to their homes in Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress initially claimed the state government was ignoring its offer, but the government on May 18 formally accepted the offer.
The government asked the Congress to submit a list of the buses, their drivers and conductors, and send the buses to Lucknow by 10 am on May 19.
Sandeep Singh told the government sending empty buses to Lucknow was “inhuman” and the “product of an anti-poor mindset” when thousands of workers were gathered at UP's borders.
Then, UP's Additional Chief Secretary (Home & Information) Awanish Awasthi agreed to take charge of the buses at the Delhi-UP border.
But the row escalated when the UP government said the list also contained registration number of vehicles other than buses.
UP Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh challenged the claim.
"There are 1,000 buses. If the UP government has any doubts about them, they can conduct physical verification of the vehicles at the state's border," he said.
Finally, the buses returned from the UP-Rajasthan border without being used.
(With PTI inputs)