LESS than a month after he took over as the Delhi law minister, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi finds itself in a spot over Somnath Bharti’s actions over the past week. Bharti led a midnight ‘raid’ on an alleged drug and sex ring in Khirki Extension in south Delhi following which at least four Ugandan women have filed complaints against him.
But the vigilante tag may only be one part of the problem for AAP as Bharti’s past business interests, and conduct in Delhi courts where he practised as a lawyer, hardly give any comfort. From owning a company whose name figured in a list of world’s top 200 spam operators to attempting a sting operation on a prosecution witness in a corruption case, Bharti’s past may be more worrying for the party than his future.
Party colleagues describe him as an “emotional person” who tends to react to a situation with “passion” without caring about the consequences. “His intentions are good. He usually acts out of passion or emotion,” said Ranju Minhas, AAP’s women wing coordinator, who has worked closely with Bharti.
In fact, after stories of his alleged involvement in tampering with evidence in a corruption case came to light, Minhas called him on the night of the Khirki Extension raid. “I told him to be more careful,” she said.
An AAP volunteer described Bharti as someone who took up the cause of justice. “After the Delhi gangrape case, Delhi Police tried to falsely convict around eight innocent young boys. He fought for those boys and helped them get justice,” he said.
Although court records show Bharti has appeared in a number of cases representing activists, rape victims, and students, he does not draw much admiration among many of the lawyers. “As a lawyer, he should know what is the acceptable way to behave towards judges and the bar. The opinion amongst lawyers is that he should not have been made the law minister,” said Delhi Bar Association president R N Vats.
Delhi Bar Council secretary Murari Tiwari said Bharti did not interact much with other lawyers or was little known before getting elected from Malviya Nagar last month. “I had to get the Bar Council staff to get his enrolment papers out to see who he was when the news about his remarks towards judges came out,” he said.
Former secretary of the Dwarka Bar Association P S Singh recalled