SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir police has booked a case taking cognisance of allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party led by its state chief Ravinder Raina leaders bribed journalists during a press conference in the arid Ladakh region last week.

“On the directions of the honourable court, we have filed an FIR in the case and investigation has been started,” a senior police officer said, adding that the statements of journalists who had complained about the ‘bribery’ will be recorded in coming days.

The BJP state unit landed in a soup after Leh Press Club on May 2 filed a complaint with the deputy commissioner Ladakh Avny Lavasa that some leaders offered cash-filled envelopes to media-persons at the presser held at a local hotel.

While the BJP initially denied bribing allegations, a video footage from the press conference leaked on social media showed the party leaders handing over white envelopes to the journalists who had come to cover the event.

The issue was also flagged by Congress candidate from Ladakh Lok Sabha constituency, Rigzin Spalbar, as well as the members of Leh Press Club following which a district administration inquiry prima facie established violation of model code of conduct and referred the matter to J&K Police.

“The District Election Officer/Dy Commissioner Leh vide letter no. Elec-HLok Sabha/20191703); dated 05-05-2019 referring to the complaints and enquiry brought the matter of violation of Model Code of Conduct and provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act as well as RPC, to the knowledge of SSP Leh for action under law. The instant application is allowed and Station House Officer, Police Station, Leh is permitted to investigate the matter under law,” the court order reads.

“Perusal and consideration of the material on record reveals prima facie commission of non-cognizable offences punishable under Section 171E and 171F RPC warranting investigation,” the order adds.

The issue had sparked a political storm in the state with former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti demanding action against the rightwing party leaders. The BJP has however denied the bribery allegations.

“The envelopes given to journalists had invitations in them and not money. This is a conspiracy against our party. I will file a defamation case against the Press Club Leh for naming me in their complaint,” J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina said.