From spamming taint to outbursts, Somnath Bharti's past is no comfort for AAP

New Delhi | Updated: Jan 25 2014, 21:15pm hrs
Somnath BhartiSomnath Bharti's firm ran a website, which was among the Indian entities to figure in the Register of Known Spamming Operations of 200 top operators in the world.
LESS than a month after he took over as the Delhi law minister, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi finds itself in a spot over Somnath Bhartis actions over the past week. Bharti led a midnight raid on an alleged drug and sex ring in Khirki Extension in south Delhi following which at least four Ugandan women have filed complaints against him.

But the vigilante tag may only be one part of the problem for AAP as Bhartis past business interests, and conduct in Delhi courts where he practised as a lawyer, hardly give any comfort. From owning a company whose name figured in a list of worlds top 200 spam operators to attempting a sting operation on a prosecution witness in a corruption case, Bhartis past may be more worrying for the party than his future.

Party colleagues describe him as an emotional person who tends to react to a situation with passion without caring about the consequences. His intentions are good. He usually acts out of passion or emotion, said Ranju Minhas, AAPs women wing coordinator, who has worked closely with Bharti.

In fact, after stories of his alleged involvement in tampering with evidence in a corruption case came to light, Minhas called him on the night of the Khirki Extension raid. I told him to be more careful, she said.

An AAP volunteer described Bharti as someone who took up the cause of justice. After the Delhi gangrape case, Delhi Police tried to falsely convict around eight innocent young boys. He fought for those boys and helped them get justice, he said.

Although court records show Bharti has appeared in a number of cases representing activists, rape victims, and students, he does not draw much admiration among many of the lawyers. As a lawyer, he should know what is the acceptable way to behave towards judges and the bar. The opinion amongst lawyers is that he should not have been made the law minister, said Delhi Bar Association president R N Vats.

Delhi Bar Council secretary Murari Tiwari said Bharti did not interact much with other lawyers or was little known before getting elected from Malviya Nagar last month. I had to get the Bar Council staff to get his enrolment papers out to see who he was when the news about his remarks towards judges came out, he said.

Former secretary of the Dwarka Bar Association P S Singh recalled an altercation Bharti had with striking lawyers at the Dwarka courts in March last year. He insisted on appearing before the court when lawyers sitting on strike (over territorial jurisdiction) asked him not to. Things got heated up after he started citing Supreme Court judgments, saying that lawyers should not go on strike. He almost got beaten up, Singh said.

We have to go meet him soon as the law secretary has told us that the minister has to take a decision. The last time some association members met him he said he recalled the altercation. Now we will tell him that if strike is the answer to all issues, the association will also go on strike again.

Apart from conduct issues, Bharti has another tag to fight with his firm being blacklisted for spamming. According to his 2013 election affidavit, Bharti owns Madgen Solutions Pvt Ltd. This firm ran a website, which was among the Indian entities to figure in the Register of Known Spamming Operations (ROKSO) of 200 top operators in the world. One of the criteria for being listed in ROKSO, maintained by SpamHaus.org, is that at least three ISPs should have previously terminated the operator for spamming.

Born on May 10, 1974, Bharti came to Delhi from Hisua town in Bihar at the age of 18. After Ramjas College, where he was part of the dramtics society Shunya, he did his masters in maths from IIT Delhi in 1997. After stints as IT consultant, teacher and entrepreneur, he got a law degree from Delhi University in 2008.

It was at an IIT meeting in 2010 that he first met Arvind Kejriwal, which eventually shaped his entry into politics. After joining the Anna Hazare movement, he stayed by Kejriwals side when the latter formed AAP.

Apart from being one of the legal advisors of AAP, he is a member of a committee set up by Kejriwal to suggest reforms to make the legal system more efficient and accountable. He was also actively involved in making the drafts of Jan Lokpal and Swaraj bills.

- RUHI BHASIN & ANEESHA MATHUR