Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday defended law minister Somnath Bharti, asserting his cabinet colleague did not tamper with evidence in a case he was handling last year. But the BJP and Congress attacked Bharti and the former demanded he quit. Bharti too defended himself.
According to a media report, an order was passed by then CBI special judge Poonam A Bamba in which she pulled up Bharti and his client Pawan Kumar — facing prosecution on corruption charges — after the CBI accused them of influencing a prosecution witness by speaking to him on phone and discussing the case.
"Somnath Bharti was trying to save a junior level officer and the sting operation that has been done is being called tampering of evidence by the judges," Kejriwal told reporters.
"We are ready to give the recording and then you can see and tell where has the tampering been done. I have told Somnath that the recording be played to the media," he added.
The law minister said it was "erroneous on the part of the judge to call it tampering of evidence" and that he was instead "strengthening evidence" for the case but still faced from both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
"People in this country respect the judiciary the most. Our judiciary is independent and nothing can be more serious than raising questions on it," said Congress Delhi chief Arvinder Singh Lovely.
"Whether a department like law should be headed by a person who is himself accused of breaking the law is a matter of concern," he added.
The BJP demanded Bharti's resignation.
"AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) talks about honesty and their own minister is trying to shield an accused in a fraud case. We demand his resignation and this incident has exposed the reality of the AAP," said its Delhi unit chief Vijay Goel.
The case relates to Pawan Kumar, a bank employee, prosecuted by the Central Bureau of Investigation in three separate cases for his alleged acts of omission and commission while employed with the State Bank of Mysore since 2006.