Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Somnath Bharti was on Tuesday protected from arrest in connection with a domestic violence and attempt to murder case filed by his wife Lipika, with Delhi high court asking the city police not to take any coercive steps against him till Thursday.
Justice Suresh Kait while passing the interim order also issued notice to the police, directing it to file a status report in the case by September 17, the next date of hearing.
The court declined Delhi Police's request not to grant any interim protection from arrest to the former Delhi law minister, saying "I have to consider the material on record, so you file your affidavit in this regard."
"If you do not want to file your response, tell me, I will hear it today (Tuesday) itself and pass the order," the court said, adding: "Notice issued. Meanwhile, Delhi police shall file their status report. No coercive steps till then."
The order came on the AAP MLA's plea seeking anticipatory bail in view of the non-bailable warrant issued for his arrest by a trial court on Monday.
Appearing for Bharti, senior advocate Dayan Krishnan argued in court that the sum and substance of the FIR against the MLA was a matrimonial dispute which has been "blown out of proportion" in view of his "elected position".
Krishnan, assisted by advocate Vijay Aggarwal, questioned the need for custodial interrogation in the matter asking "what will they do with custodial interrogation? Beat a confession out of him? That would be inadmissible."
"So do they want to arrest him to make headlines or for the case," the lawyers asked and added that Bharti was willing to sit across the table with his wife and resolve the issues between them.
Bharti's wife Lipika Mitra, who was present in court, said she was "not interested in any reconciliation" with him as he had mistreated and abused her when they were together.
She claimed that despite knowing she was a diabetic and suffered from high blood pressure, Bharti had beaten her up, tried to strangulate her and even unleashed his dog on her knowing that she was seven months pregnant.
She also alleged before the court that he had neglected her and their two kids and she did not trust his intentions and she did not believe he was capable of change.
During the hearing, Krishnan argued that the incident on which the FIR was based had taken place on March 19, 2013 and the complaint was lodged only in June 11 this year.
He said after the incident his wife had conceived twice and added that Bharti and his wife have had matrimonial issues in the past. But they got back together and she conceived, which shows they were not estranged, he added.
This line of argument was objected to by special public prosecutor (SPP) Shailender Babbar, who said Bharti's counsel was "making a mockery of the matter".
The SPP opposed grant of any interim protection to Bharti saying said he was an influential person and was free due to which no one was coming forward to depose against him.
He also argued that Bharti did not come to the aid of his wife while she was mauled by his dog and added that he had tried to strangulate her while she was pregnant despite knowing she was diabetic and suffered from hypertension.
In his plea for anticipatory bail, Bharti has claimed that the offence under section 307 (attempt to murder) was not made out, as even the allegations made, did not show he had any intention of committing the offence.
"Hence, the invocation of section 307 IPC is merely a ploy to harass the applicant (Bharti)," his petition said.
It also said "there is no injury/medical report to substantiate the claim of physical abuse by the applicant, which fact clearly shows that no case is made out against the applicant/petitioner.
"Pertinently, the complainant has stated that she herself got an abortion, which is proof enough that offence under section 313 (causing miscarriage without woman's consent) of IPC is not made out."
He also claimed in his plea that the complaint was made after "a huge amount of delay, which is fatal to the complainant's case, as it makes the whole case of the complainant unreliable and the delay has not been explained."
The matter was mentioned this morning before a bench of justices BD Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva, who directed that it be listed before the appropriate court after Krishnan argued that the matter was urgent as there was every chance of his arrest.
The plea was moved before the high court after a trial court on Monday dismissed his petition seeking anticipatory bail and another court issued an NBW against him.
Bharti's plea for anticipatory bail was rejected by additional sessions judge (ASJ) Sanjay Garg observing that it was the second complaint lodged against the MLA by his wife who has alleged he had not mended his conduct despite assurance before Crime Against Women Cell of the police.
Later in the day, a metropolitan magistrate had issued the NBW against him after the police moved an application contending that Bharti was not cooperating in the probe and had failed to appear for interrogation despite three summons issued to him.
The ASJ, while rejecting anticipatory bail to Bharti, had accepted submissions of the special public prosecutor that allegations against the lawmaker were serious and there was a possibility of his tampering with evidence.
The court had also rejected the MLA's contention that attempt to murder charge was not made out, while referring to an allegation in the FIR that Bharti tried to strangulate his wife and unleashed his dog on her.
Lipika had filed a complaint of domestic violence with Delhi Commission for Women on June 10 alleging that her husband had been abusing her since their marriage in 2010. She had also given a complaint to the police in this regard.
Delhi Police had last week registered an FIR against Bharti under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 498A (cruelty towards partner in marriage), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 313 read with 511 (attempt to cause miscarriage without woman's consent), 420 (cheating) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC.