In a major relief to Aam Aadmi Party leader and former Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, the Delhi High Court on Friday set aside an order of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) holding him guilty of racial prejudice and unlawful acts. The matter relates to a controversial midnight raid launched by him against some African women in Khirki Extension here earlier this year.
Quashing the September 29 order of NHRC, a Vacation Bench comprising Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Manmohan Singh directed it to hear the matter afresh and pass a detailed order after taking into account the evidence led by Mr. Bharti in his defence.
The Court asked the AAP leader to appear before NHRC on January 13, as directed by the latter while accepting his request for hearing in the case. The Commission had earlier suo motu initiated the proceedings in the matter without giving him any notice or an opportunity of being heard.
With these directions, the Vacation Bench disposed of Mr. Bharti’s appeal against the Single Judge Bench decision of Tuesday dismissing his writ petition against the NHRC’s ruling. The Single Judge had stated that the petition was premature, as the NHRC was seized of the matter by allowing Mr. Bharti’s request to be heard. Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain appeared for the Union Government in the matter.
The NHRC had directed the Delhi Government to pay Rs.25,000 each as compensation to the 12 African women, who had allegedly suffered racial abuse, illegal detention, intimidation, assault and indignity during the raid. The Commission later asked the Delhi Government to defer payment of monetary relief for two months. In his appeal moved through counsel Deepak Khosla, Mr. Bharti contended that the Single Judge had dismissed his petition without allowing fair opportunity to explain the facts of the situation before the NHRC and the legal grounds on which the plea was maintainable.
The Delhi Police had charge sheeted Mr. Bharti before a trial court in October for alleged molestation and other offences during the raid conducted by him and his supporters on the intervening night of January 15 and 16 this year on a house where the African women were residing.
Mr. Bharti had sought setting aside of the NHRC’s order as well as directions to the Centre, NHRC and Delhi Government to jointly and severally pay him a sum of not less than Rs.100 crore as compensation. However, the court did not accept his plea for compensation.