A day after the arrest of its law minister, there was more trouble in store for the Aam Aadmi Party government with MLA Somnath Bharti’s wife filing a domestic violence case against him.
Lipika Mitra has accused Bharti of dowry harassment, sexual and mental torture and infidelity and filed a complaint with the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) on Wednesday, its chairperson Barkha Singh said. The DCW has summoned Bharti to present himself before it by June 26.
Mitra visited the Delhi Police headquarters in the evening but did not file a complaint. She is learnt to have told a senior officer that she would wait for her husband to appear before the DCW.
Bharti, law minister in the 49-day AAP government in 2013, has been a controversial figure for the party. He had then led a midnight raid in south Delhi’s Khirki Extension targeting African women that snowballed into a major controversy. He also faced a similar domestic abuse complaint in 2011 with his wife moving the Delhi Police cell for crimes against women, but she later withdrew it.
“Deeply pained to know my wife has gone public with a family matter. Allegations of domestic violence, if any, are baseless. I love my wife and little children. I urge the media to respect my privacy,” he tweeted, adding that he was in Kerala for party work.
“My children and I are subjected to harassment and torture… by my husband Somnath Bharti. There is a persistent threat from my husband and his supporters,” Mitra’s complaint said.
Bharti and Mitra married in 2010 after meeting on a matrimonial website, according to the complaint. They have two children and have been separated for three years.
She told reporters at the police HQ that the abuse started in 2010 itself and that she now wanted to leave her husband and “live with dignity with my children”. But she also threatened to commit suicide if the media “harassed” her.
Bharti accused his wife of making a “false complaint”, tweeting, “I love my wife but her demands that I should leave serving my mother and motherland are not acceptable.” He also said it all started after “I missed my son's birthday”.
“Before marriage, he allegedly claimed to run an international law firm. Afterwards, he started taking money from her in the form of dowry and even asked for a car. He was not giving her any money and used to abuse her. Even before going to Kerala, he had beaten her. We have given him 15 days to appear before the commission, failing which we will forward the complaint to the police,” said Singh.
Distance itself from the controversy, AAP issued a statement: “The party is very sensitive to matters related to women. The issue was brought to our notice through media reports. Currently, Somnath Bharti is not in town and we are trying to reach him. The law will take its own course.”
But political rivals were quick to attack the party. “They (AAP leaders) talk a lot about respecting women but when a woman does not feel safe inside her own house, how can they guarantee her safety outside,” BJP’s Satish Upadhyay told ANI.
“Such matters are kept confidential. Her problems are being heard and proper action would be taken,” said Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi.