AAP MLA Somnath Bharti gets two years in jail for attack on AIIMS staff
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Somnath Bharti stood disqualified on Saturday after a city court sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment in a 2016 case for assaulting All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) security staff and destroying public property.
Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey also imposed a fine of ₹1 lakh on Bharti, the MLA from Malviya Nagar. The judge, however, granted Bharti bail to enable him to file an appeal before the high court against the conviction and jail term.
Under the Representation of the People Act, a legislator stands disqualified upon being sentenced to jail for a minimum of two years. The membership of the House is lost with immediate effect.
Former ASG and senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, citing a 2013 judgment by the Supreme Court, said a legislator is disqualified immediately after he has been convicted and sentenced to a minimum two years of imprisonment.
“Any MP/MLA or MLC, who gets a minimum imprisonment of two years, stands immediately disqualified according to the Lily Thomas vs Union of India judgment of the apex court. The legislator will have to take a stay on the conviction to remain in the fray. Mere suspension of sentence or the jail term will not suffice,” Luthra said.
Reacting to the judgment, AAP said, “We respect the judiciary and have full faith in it. However, we feel an injustice has happened to Somnath Bharti in this case. Somnath is a very popular leader and is loved by everyone in his constituency. He works 24 hours for his people. People in his constituency are quite saddened to hear the news of his conviction.”
“Somnath is filing an appeal. We are confident that justice will be done to him at the appellate level,” the party added.
Bharti said he believes in the judiciary and would file an appeal against the judgment in the higher court. “I have complete belief in the judiciary. I am preparing an appeal and will file it as soon as it’s ready.”
Delhi assembly speaker Ram Niwas Goel said Somnath Bharti has not been disqualified as yet.
“I am out of Delhi and will return by Sunday evening. I will seek legal opinion for the next step... In any case, as per the tenth schedule, the Speaker gets a time of three months to decide on a disqualification petition for any MLA of the legislative assembly,” said Goel.
The court, however, acquitted Bharti’s associates and co-accused Jagat Saini, Dileep Jha, Sandeep Sonu and Rakesh Pandey for want of evidence. The case was lodged on the basis of a complaint from RS Rawat, the chief security officer of AIIMS.
According to the prosecution, on September 9, 2016, Bharti, along with nearly 300 others, brought down a portion of the boundary wall and fencing at AIIMS, using an earth mover.
“The court is of the considered view that the prosecution has duly proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt against accused Somnath Bharti,” the magistrate said in the judgment passed on January 22.
The court also said the mindset to cause damage to public property and infrastructure is an attack on the common man.
“The infrastructure and public property of the country are not of any leader, party or government but these are national assets. The infrastructure is built up with the contribution of every poor, every tax payer, middle class and every section of society. While exercising the democratic rights, people must not forget about national duty to preserve the national assets and resources meant for each and every citizen,” the judge said in the sentencing order.
The court convicted Bharti of various offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 353 (assault or use of criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 147 (rioting).
It also held the AAP MLA guilty under Section 3 (mischief causing damage to public property) of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. The offences carry a maximum punishment of five years in jail.
In its judgment, the court said the prosecution had duly proved that the mob which had gathered on September 9, 2016, around 9.45am at the drain behind AIIMS, was intent on demolishing the wall and fencing put up by the hospital.
The judge also noted the testimony of Rawat that the mob was led by Bharti where he and some of the unknown members of the unlawful assembly were instructing the earthmover operator to not stop the demolition work despite the complainant requesting them to desist.
It also said no document regarding the order of demolition of the wall and fence was produced, nor was any government machinery official accompanying the MLA.