The Aam Aadmi Party on Friday ruled out withdrawing candidates in Delhi Assembly polls figuring in a sting operation, saying any action against them will be against natural justice as the CD showing them in poor light had been doctored and the web portal had refused to provide them the unedited version.
The party also asked the Election Commission to go through contents of the unedited CD, which was submitted by the portal, at the earliest and said "if they find any of the candidates guilty of any wrongdoing, they will withdraw from the contest."
Facing allegation of accepting cash through illegal means in the sting operation purportedly carried out by "mediasarkar.com", the Arvind Kejriwal-led party said it would file a case of "criminal defamation" against them for maligning the image of its candidates.
The media portal had on Thursday claimed to have done a sting operation on AAP senior leaders including Shazia Ilmi and Kumar Vishwas and alleged that they were involved in raising funds through illegal means.
After the release of the CD, AAP launched a probe into the allegation by an internal panel, which asked the portal to provide the unedited CD to the party to take appropriate action.
"After going through the CD several times, we have found lapses at many places which could only be verified by viewing the unedited footage. If we take any action without going through the unedited CD, then it would be against the natural justice, so we have decided not to withdraw any candidates," AAP leader Yogendra Yadav told reporters.
Yadav, flanked by the candidates whose names had figured in the CD and party leader Sanjay Singh, Manish Sisodia, Prashant Bhushan, Shazia Ilmi, Pankaj Gupta, also said the party would file a case of criminal defamation against the portal.
"We would also lodge a complaint against the newschannels in the News Broadcaster's Association and Press Council of India for showing the sting operation without verifying the authenticity of the CD," Yadav said.
The party wholeheartedly supported their candidates, including its candidate from R K Puram Shazia Ilmi.
Yadav said after going through the CD, it was evident to the panel that the reporter, who was carrying out the sting operation, was "chasing" the candidates and trying to get something out from them.
"While candidates could be seen trying to fend them off by just making small statements. These parts have been used by the web portal to level allegations," he said, adding one of the important portion of the conversation which could be clear heard on the CD about Ilmi has not been transcribed.
"All the important and relevant parts of the conversation have been edited. Until we go through unedited version of the earlier and later parts of these conversations, no allegation is proved. Also some portions of the conversation has been edited while some have been deleted," Yadav said.
Raising doubts over the release of the CD in a hurried manner by the portal and thereafter their refusal to handover an unedited one to them, AAP said we feel it was pre-planned and was done at the behest of some of the big parties like Congress and BJP who felt threatened by the party's rising popularity.
"I won't be surprised if more such things come to the fore in the coming days, when only a few days for elections are left," he said.
The AAP, in a letter, to the Election Commission said it was clear that the CD was a "deliberate and malicious attempt to malign the image our party by seeking to project its candidates as persons who are willing to enter into illegal transactions."
Terming the telecast of the CD a violation of the Model Code of Conduct, AAP requested the EC to undertake immediate investigation into the contents of the CD to find out if the the voice over falsely and maliciously project the party and its candidates.
"If the conversation was edited to distort what was being said or the context in which it was said, who has financed the making of the CD and therefore it constitutes paid news, whether it violates any part of the Model Code of Conduct, and if any of our candidates shown in the CD is shown to be involved in any illegality or violation of MCC," the letter said.
"We also request the EC to use its powers to stop the circulation and telecast of this malicious CD and take further appropriate action against the culprits," it said.