6:22 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

Somnath Bharti raid: women’s panel to meet Lt Governor today to demand FIR against minister

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New Delhi –  Members of the Delhi Commission for Women are likely to meet Lt Governor Najeeb Jung today to demand that an FIR or a First Information Report be registered against Law Minister Somnath Bharti, who is at the centre of a controversy over his “midnight raid” last week when, surrounded by supporters, he ordered police officers to raid homes rented by Ugandan women in his constituency, claiming they were being used to traffic drugs and sex.

The women’s rights panel had summoned Mr Bharti yesterday to explain his controversial raid when his supporters allegedly forced some of the Ugandan women to give urine samples for drug tests.

But the Law Minister skipped the meeting and instead chose to attend a kite festival in the capital. (Watch: Somnath Bharti skips meet with women’s panel to go kite-flying)

To represent him at the commission, Mr Bharti sent his lawyers who had a public confrontation with the head of the women’s commission, Barkha Singh.

Ms Singh said the panel’s guidelines did not allow it to acknowledge representation by lawyers. “I will write a letter to the Lieutenant Governor and ask for the resignation of the Law Minister,” said a furious Ms Singh. (Watch Video)

Mr Bharti had earlier not appeared before the commission after two notices. The panel had warned that if he didn’t respond to its summons for a third time, he would face an FIR.

During his “midnight raid,” the minister had organized for cameras to accompany him; the footage shows him arguing with police officers who refused to arrest the women without warrants.

That confrontation provoked a two-day protest in the heart of Delhi by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party who say the encounter proves that the city’s police force is indifferent to women’s safety and ignores the state government because it reports to the union Home Ministry.

A police case has been filed against the Law Minister by the women; seven have testified against him in court; some of them have identified Mr Bharti as the leader of a mob that beat and molested them.

Mr Bharti’s Aam Aadmi Party or AAP has defended him, claiming that in the unedited footage of his raid, he does not demonstrate racist behaviour, does not manhandle the women, and does not misuse his office as a minister.

That footage was released by the party in an attempt to justify its unyielding support for Mr Bharti despite women activists, human rights groups and other parties demanding his removal from office.

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