Ignoring the AAP government’s view, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung has given his nod to prosecute former Delhi Law minister and party MLA Somnath Bharti in connection with alleged misbehavior with women during a midnight raid in South Delhi in January last year.
“LG has given the police sanction to prosecute Bharti. However, Home Minister Satyendra Jain recently suggested that prosecution sanction should not be given against Bharti,” LG office sources said. The sources said that taking cognizance of seriousness of the case, Jung has given his approval for Bharti’s prosecution.
Earlier this year, a court had asked the police to get prosecution sanction against Bharti from the competent authority. The LG’s decision comes amid a running turf battle with the Kejriwal government and is likely to further worsen relations between the two. In its charge sheet filed in September last year, police had said that “nine African women were victims of molestation and manhandling by a mob led by Bharti” in Khirki Extension area. On the intervening night of January 15-16, Bharti and his supporters had allegedly forcibly detained and threatened some African women during a confrontation with police in his constituency of Malviya Nagar over inaction against a suspected drug and prostitution ring. Bharti, who was then a minister in the AAP government, had denied the charges. Seventeen others were charge sheeted on September 29 under 16 sections of the Indian Penal Code, including that of outraging the modesty of women.
In the 100-page document, police cited around 41 prosecution witnesses, including nine African women, to buttress the charges. Police had lodged a first information report Jan 19 last year against “unidentified accused” on the court’s direction and booked them on various charges dealing with wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation and act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. The court order came on a plea by a Ugandan woman who sought registration of an FIR against people involved in the incident.
The former Delhi law minister is not the only AAP MLA facing legal trouble. On June 9, the then Law minister in the AAP government Jitender Singh Tomar was arrested on charges of possessing fake degrees. Tomar later resigned from the Cabinet. In July, AAP MLA from Kondli Manoj Kumar was arrested in connection with a case of alleged cheating and land grabbing.
Bharti, known for courting controversies, faced flak on Monday for saying that “beautiful women” would be able to go out at midnight provided AAP government takes over policing system in the national capital. “I am fully confident that if Delhi government is given full freedom (over security), beautiful women will be able to go out even after midnight without any fear” Bharti said during a discussion on setting up of ‘Commission of Inquiry’ in the Delhi Assembly.
Senior BJP leader Vijendra Gupta said that it was a “highly objectionable” remark while Congress had dubbed it as “absolutely disgusting and derogatory towards women”. “But it is not surprising coming from someone who defied law even when he was law minister. It really shows his attitude,” DPCC chief spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee said.
However, Bharti on Tuesday defended his remarks saying it was just a figure of speech. “I said it in context of setting a benchmark. Sometimes beauty can become a bane. It is just a figure of speech… to convey the benchmark we intend to keep” while addressing issue of security, he said.
In June this year, Bharti’s wife Lipika had approached the Delhi Commission for Women, accusing him of domestic violence.