Court summons Assam CM, wife for alleged violation of Mode Code of Conduct

The case filed in May 2019 refers to an interview of Himananta Biswa Sarma that was telecast on a TV channel where his wife Rinku Bhuyan was the CMD

Court summons Assam CM, wife for alleged violation of Mode Code of Conduct

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, and his wife Rinku Bhuyan have been summoned by a court in connection with an instance of violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) during the 2019 General Elections.

In 2019, Sarma was a powerful minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal administration with multiple important portfolios. Bhuyan was the Chairperson and Managing Director (CMD) of Pride East Entertainments Pvt. Ltd., which owns News Live TV, an Assamese news channel. Bhuyan is now the CMD of the channel.

On April 10, 2019 at 7:55 P.M the channel telecast a live interview with Sarma. This is a violation of 126(1)(b) of the Representation of People’s Act.

According to this section, “display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus” is prohibited during a period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of polling. Sarma’s interview was aired during this 48-hour period, thus violating the section and thus the wider Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

The Election Commission had at the time filed a case upon receiving a complaint from the president and general secretary of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee. The matter emerged before the court now given how Sarma is the Chief Minister and if, therefore, a sanction is required before taking cognisance of the offence.

The Telegraph quoted the court as saying, “Thereby, this act of the accused though he was/is the minister/chief minister of (the) state of Assam, does not come under his official duty. Hence, sanction is not required before issuing summons to Himanta Biswa Sarma as an accused in this case and there is no bar to proceed against the accused.”

In an order dated February 11, 2022, Kamrup Metropolitan Chief Judicial Magistrate A K Baruah, asked both Sarma and Bhuyan to appear before the court.

In the past too, Sarma has been in hot water for poll code violation. In 2021, in the run up to the Assembly Elections in Assam, Sarma was quoted by the media as having allegedly said that Molihary, a Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) leader will go to jail if he engages in extremist activity, and that the case was being given to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Following this, the Election Commission of India (ECI) first served him a show-cause notice, and then barred Sarma from campaigning for 48 hours. His brother Sushanta Biswa Sarma, a Superintendent of Police, was also transferred out of Goalpara.

Though Sarma himself is not new to controversy, this is not the first time his wife has been in the news either. In December 2021, an investigation by The Wire and Guwahati-based portal Crosscurrent revealed that a real estate company co-founded by Bhuyan, is in possession of 18 acres of land that was earmarked for landless people.



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