The Delhi High Court has sought response of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's officer on special duty on a plea by Delhi Police seeking to vacate an order by which it was directed not to take coercive action against the officer in an alleged phone taping case.

The Delhi Police claimed that Gehlot’s OSD Lokesh Sharma as well as the Rajasthan Police were misusing the interim protection granted by the high court and were delaying the investigation in the case and urged that the June 3, 2021 interim order be vacated.

The high court had on June 3, 2021 asked the Delhi Police not to take any coercive steps against Sharma in the case.

Justice Jasmeet Singh, in a January 13 order, issued notice to Sharma and State of Rajasthan and asked them to file their replies to the application.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on January 23. The application was filed in a pending petition by Sharma in which he has sought quashing of an FIR lodged against him by the Delhi Police.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the petitioner whereas ASG Sanjay Jain appeared for State.

The Delhi Police had in March 2021 registered an FIR in connection with the alleged phone tapping case in Rajasthan based on a complaint filed by Gajendra Shekhawat, who is the Union Jal Shakti minister, against Sharma and others for commission of alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and unlawfully intercepting telegraphic signals (telephonic conversation).

Sharma, in his petition, said that the FIR pertained to the broadcast of certain audio conversations between Shekhawat and other people about "using corrupt and illegal means to topple" the Congress government in Rajasthan in 2020.

He claimed that the FIR arises out of a purely motivated complaint and is entirely mala fide and an abuse of process and it is being used as a tool of political vendetta to pressurise him to settle a political score.

"The impugned FIR is a counter blast to FIRs that were lodged in July 2020 in Rajasthan, wherein cases against the Respondent No. 2 (Shekhawat) and others are being investigated on allegations of using corrupt means to try and topple a democratically elected government," the plea alleged.

The plea said it was reported in the media in July 2020 that a complaint was also filed before a Jaipur court against Sharma and others on the issue of the leaked audio clips and the same was pending inquiry under the provisions of CrPC and urged that either the Delhi FIR be quashed or be handed over to the state of Rajasthan as a 'Zero’ FIR where the entire cause of action arises.

He has also sought a stay on the investigation of FIR lodged by the Delhi Police.

The phone tapping controversy had erupted in July 2020 in Rajasthan during a political crisis due to the rebellion of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs against Gehlot’s leadership following which audio clips purportedly having telephonic conversation between Shekhawat and Congress leaders had surfaced.

Congress leaders of Gehlot's camp had then alleged that the BJP leaders were involved in horse trading to topple the state government.

Shekhawat is a BJP MP from Rajasthan''s Jodhpur. According to the FIR, Shekhawat has alleged in his complaint that on July 17, 2020, various prominent media houses and news channels had aired some telephonic conversations, allegedly between him, a man named Sanjay Jain and Bhanwar Lal Sharma, a member of Rajasthan Legislative Assembly.

In the complaint, Shekhawat alleged that the telephonic conversations were allegedly leaked to the media houses and news channels by Lokesh Sharma, OSD to the Rajasthan chief minister.

Cause Title- Lokesh Sharma v. State (NCT of Delhi)

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With PTI Inputs