AAP panchayat rules: Minister Somnath Bharti did no wrong

Written by Express news service | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 25 2014, 02:47am hrs
Somnath BhartiDelhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti at the AAP office in New Delhi on Thursday. (IE photo: Tashi Tobgyal)
AS THE law came down on Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti and some from his own party endorsed calls for action against him for his controversial midnight raid in South Delhi last week, the top brass of the Aam Aadmi Party Thursday decided to stand by him.

Emerging from a meeting of party leaders, Yogendra Yadav told reporters that there were three issues before them: whether Bhartis actions violated procedure, whether his remarks smacked of racism, whether he misbehaved with women. And based on evidence so far, he said the answer was in the negative on all three counts.

Yadav said a judicial probe was already underway. If the probe finds him guilty on any count, we will take suitable action.

Bhartis actions, Yadav said, were legitimate.

Somnath Bharti should in fact be praised because he gave up his comforts to look into a matter, which many residents had complained about, Yadav said.

However, AAP rebel and Laxmi Nagar MLA Vinod Kumar Binny said the party was being hypocritical. If the policemen were sent on leave, then Bharti should be asked to step down as well so a fair inquiry can be conducted. It does not matter if the files of the inquiry do not go by him, but as a minister he has influence, he said.

On January 16, Bharti led a raid on an alleged drug-and-prostitution ring in Khirki Extension in South Delhi after receiving complaints from residents. Flagging down a police van, Bharti stopped four Ugandan women and took them to AIIMS and allegedly forced them to give urine samples for a drug test.

The women have since recorded statements before the police. Bharti also quarrelled with police who, citing lack of a warrant, refused to conduct a search on a house he suspected was a den of vice.

On Thursday, hours before the AAP leaders went into a huddle, a court in Saket sought a reply from the DCP (South) within two days on the status of the inquiry into the midnight raid by Bharti and his men.

The directions came four hours after the SHO of the Malviya Nagar police station told the court that they were conducting an inquiry into complaints of several Ugandan woman that they had been assaulted by men, allegedly led by Bharti.

The Delhi Commission for Women too summoned Bharti to depose before it on Friday. Sources in the DCW said that if he did not turn up, then it will take up the matter with Lt Governor Najeeb Jung.

However, AAP leaders called DCW a political organisation.

We respect the judicial inquiry, but Somnath Bharti can decide on his own if a politically motivated organisation has called him. The leader of DCW is a politician. Even if we had appointed an MLA or a former MLA as chairperson, the public would have seen them as politicians first, Yadav said.

AAP leaders including Yadav, Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai, Manish Sisodia and Bharti met at the partys Hanuman Road office in central Delhi.

The meeting was called just hours after Kejriwal met Jung. Earlier in the day, Congress and BJP leaders had met Jung and Police Commissioner B S Bassi to demand Bhartis arrest. If the SHOs have been asked to go on leave pending inquiry, so should Bharti, Delhi Congress leader Arvinder Singh Lovely said.

This was evident after the law minister skipped a crucial meeting on the draft Delhi Lokayukta Bill, which is likely to be given approval by the state cabinet Friday. The Bill modelled on the AAPs model Jan Lokpal Bill is likely to be tabled in the Assembly early February.

While the AAP meeting in Hanuman Road will primarily revolve around the Jan Lokpal and the LS elections, Somnath Bhartis conduct will also be discussed, which is why he was called, a senior AAP leader said.

The leader said that Kejriwals defensive stand on Bharti did not have many takers in the AAP. The CM had staged a two-day protest outside Rail Bhawan, demanding action against police officers, including one who refused to give in to Bhartis demands on the night of January 16.

According to sources in the party, the Political Affairs Committee had already agreed that Bharti had used unparliamentary language against leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley. Bharti has also been asked to watch his language in public.