Do Delhi Police cases against more than a dozen Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders and legislators hold merit? Perhaps not, given the series of court observations raising questions over shoddy investigations and delays in filing charges in most of the cases….writes Vishav and Ruwa Shah
At least 15 leaders of AAP — which swept to power in Delhi in February 2015, winning 67 of 70 seats — have been accused of various offences, including sexual harassment, forgery, extortion, domestic violence and rioting.
Thirteen were arrested and are out on bail. Two of the accused have already been acquitted. Courts have rapped the police for alleged incompetent investigations in most of the cases.
Some political observers believe the AAP, which handed out the first electoral rout to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after its sweeping victory in the 2014 general election, is being deliberately targeted by the ruling dispensation at the Centre, which has control over Delhi Police.
Advocate Rebecca John is among those who has alleged a conspiracy in the cases against AAP MLAs. She said many of the cases, some of which she said she has personally examined, were based on “very flimsy material”.
“All those cases have to be looked at differently. I feel that many of the cases are based on very flimsy material. And it would be very difficult for the police to string up a credible chargesheet in any of those cases,” she said.
However, Atul Shrivastava, a public prosecutor in two cases — the fake law degree case against Jitender Tomar, MLA from Tri Nagar, and the domestic violence case against Somnath Bharti, MLA from Malviya Nagar — said the court has taken cognizance of the cases.
“It is unfair to say there is no substance. Else, the court won’t have taken cognizance of the (Bharti) case,” he said, adding that charges against the former minister have been filed.
Senior advocate K.K. Manan, who filed the complaint against Tomar, is, however, disappointed that the police are yet to file a chargesheet.
“The case against Tomar is fool-proof,” Manan claimed. “The police should investigate the matter within the prescribed timeframe. If they are unable to get credible evidence against the MLA, they should file a closure report,” the advocate told IANS.
“There is documentary evidence against Tomar and a few other people. They (the police) should file the chargesheet and let the court decide. They are unnecessarily sitting on the files,” he said, adding that if the chargesheet was not filed within the given timeframe, the “man will be discharged”.
Advocate John sees this as a symptom of the police “unease” with some of the cases.
“The police may still somehow put together a chargesheet. But I can clearly see the unease of the police as it is easy to register a case but very difficult to sustain the investigation… Since the cases lack moral, legal and factual basis… I can sense the dilemma of the police.
“It appears to me that the motive behind these cases is not necessarily that somebody has committed an offence. It seems more because there is a vested interest to make sure that as many AAP MLAs are embroiled in legal cases as possible.”
John believes it is “very sad for us that the police force of a city is openly partisan and begins to file cases against individuals of a party based on the political dispensation at the Centre”.
AAP leaders too have claimed innocence, saying they are being framed due to the upcoming elections in Punjab and Goa — where the fledgling political party is contesting for the first time after its success in Delhi.
“We have always believed in the judiciary and will knock at its door to prove our innocence. The use of (investigative and tax agencies like) CBI, IB, IT to defame AAP MLAs has gained us public support. Everybody knows that this witch-hunting is to stop us from doing our work,” Akhilesh Pati Tripathi, AAP MLA from Model Town, told IANS.
Tripathi was acquitted by a Delhi court in a sexual harassment case. He alleged that the central government, under which Delhi Police operate, had “tarnished its own image” by filing false cases against AAP leaders.
MLA from Okhla Amanatullah Khan, who has been accused of culpable homicide and sexual harassment and is out on bail, claimed the “witch-hunting” by the BJP has helped the AAP gain support in poll-bound Punjab.
“It will be proven when the AAP wins Punjab. People in Punjab are supporting us because they know how the BJP has crossed all limits to stop us from working in Delhi,” Khan told IANS.
“Our win will be because of people’s reaction to what they have been doing to us”.