Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung has given the police sanction to prosecute AAP MLA Somnath Bharti in connection with the Khirki Extension raid, in which the former Delhi minister targeted some African women in January 2014, sources said.
Bharti will be among several Aam Aadmi Party leaders who are facing prosecution in different cases and the LG’s sanction is expected to open a fresh round of confrontation between the Raj Niwas and the Delhi government.
“The trial can now start in the case, which was pending in the absence of the prosecution sanction. Since Bharti is an elected representative, an approval from the competent authority - which in this case is the lieutenant governor - was mandatory before he could be prosecuted,” said a senior Delhi government official.
Sources said Jung had been waiting for an opinion from the Delhi government’s home and legal departments and went ahead despite home minister Satyendar Jain denying permission to prosecute Bharti.
“The matter had been pending for a few months and a decision had to be taken. The home department had put up the file to the home minister earlier he had rejected the sanction. But, the lieutenant governor went ahead to give the permission. Now, the Delhi Police can initiate further action against Bharti,” said a senior Delhi government official.
The opposition had criticised the then-law minister Somnath Bharti for his vigilante action and misbehaviour with women. A number of women’s organisations and political rivals had accused Bharti of passing racist remarks while dealing with the African women.
The AAP MLA and a number of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members and volunteers had gone to Khirki Extension at around 3 am on the intervening night of 15-16 January 2014 to raid the houses of various people from African descent. The mob, according to the Ugandan women, then proceeded to bang on the doors of various women past midnight, molesting then and harassing them.
In its charge sheet filed on September 27 last year, the Delhi Police had said that “nine African women were victims of molestation and manhandling by a mob led by Bharti”, who was the Delhi law minister at that time.
Bharti and 17 others have been booked under various sections of the IPC, including 354 (outraging women’s modesty), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 147 (rioting).
The LG and the AAP government have been at loggerheads over various issues recently, including appointments and transfer of senior bureaucrats and the AAP government bypassing the LG in seeking his permission over policy-related issues.