Delhi Law Minister’s Arrest Turns Into Political Battle

Arrested Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar being produced at Saket Court in New Delhi on Tuesday in connection with an alleged fake degree case. Credit: PTI Photo

Arrested Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar being produced at Saket Court in New Delhi on Tuesday in connection with an alleged fake degree case. Credit: PTI Photo

Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar was on Tuesday afternoon arrested by the Delhi Police for submitting forged academic documents and booked on the charges of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy with relation to his graduation and law degrees. He was produced before a Delhi court which remanded him to four days custody. He later handed in his resignation.

The arrest triggered a war of words between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party which saw “vindictive politics” in the episode and its opponents, who claimed that the true face of the party which came to power on the plank of fighting corruption had once again been exposed.

The development, coming within days of Tomar submitting before the Delhi High Court on May 27 that he had completed his Bachelor in Law from Bishwanath Singh Institute of Legal Studies College in Munger, Bihar, evoked a strong response from a section of the legal community.

Since Tomar’s counsel had submitted before the High Court that the Munger college records show that Tomar cleared the three-year LLB in 1994-98 with a one year gap and the matter is pending jurisdiction, senior advocate KTS Tulsi termed the arrest “high-handed” and one of “political vendetta”.

“The case was pending before the High Court and two cases are going on. Parties have placed the material, they have issued the notice. Tomar’s counsel had placed the communication from the university that he was a bonafide student. When the matter is pending before the court, I don’t understand what is the provocation of the Delhi Police to register an FIR and then to arrest,” he told journalists.

‘Emergency like’ situation

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia termed the development “emergency-like”. Giving details about the manner in which the arrest was effected, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said 30 to 40 police officers landed at Tri Nagar MLA Tomar’s office and asked him to accompany them to his residence on the pretext of examining some documents. “On the way,” he said, “the police personnel told his driver to get down and one of them took over the wheels. Tomar was told to tell someone to bring the documents at police station because he has been detained.” Subsequently, Tomar was taken to Hauz Khas police station where he was formally arrested at 1.30 p.m.

Claiming that the arrest had been carried out to teach a lesson to the Arvind Kejriwal government as it had taken on the Centre on using the Lieutenant-Governor’s office for preventing Delhi Government from cracking down on corruption, Sisodia said there was no reason to treat Tomar like a “mafia don”. “Has Tomar exploded bombs in Delhi?” he asked.

But the police maintained that the arrest was based on a watertight case and was not politically motivated.

A senior officer said the arrest was made on a complaint by Punit Mittal, honorary secretary of Bar Council of Delhi, which was filed on May 11, with Deputy Commissioner of Police, South District. The allegation pertained to Tomar’s obtaining enrolment with Bar Council, Delhi in 2011 by submitting forged academic documents, which included the mark sheets, a Bachelor of Science graduation degree and provisional certificates, and mark sheets of his Bachelor of Law examination.

Stating that an enquiry as per the direction of Supreme Court of India in Lalita Kumari Vs State of UP was conducted into the complaint, the Delhi police said two teams were sent to verify the documents attached with the complaint to Awadh University, Faizabad and Tilkamanjhi University in Bhagalpur, Bihar.

“In the record of K.S. Saket Post-Graduation College, Ayodhya from where the alleged B.Sc. degree and marks sheets were issued, the name of Jitender Singh Tomar was not found in their college admission register.” Similarly, the police said “roll numbers mentioned in the B.Sc. mark sheets/degree were not found in the college/university record.”

The Controller of Examination of RML, Awadh University, Faizabad reported that no B.Sc. degree or  marks sheets had been issued by the University in the name of Jitender Singh Tomar as per their record.

As for the LLB certificates, the police said “the provisional certificate of LLB  in the name of Sh. Jitender Singh Tomar issued from Tilkamanjhi University, Bhagal Pur, Bihar as per the University report has also been reported to be fake. The roll number mentioned in the provisional certificate of LLB was found to have been allotted to another student, Sanjay Kumar Chaudhary, from a different stream, in 1999.”

Likewise, it said “the facsimile signature of Rajender Prasad Singh as Controller of Examination, on the marks sheet of LLB (Part III) and Provisional Degree were found to be forged”.

As for the AAP Law Minister’s record in the Law College at Munger, the police said “it has been shown that Jitender Singh Tomar had obtained the B.Sc. degree from Awadh University, Faizabad, whereas in the record of Tilkamanjhi University, Bhagal Pur, Bihar he has shown to have been migrated from Bundel Khand University.”

The police said the “registration number mentioned in the Tilkamanjhi University, Bhagal Pur, Bihar record has been given in the name of Sh. Jitender Singh Tomer in the year 2001, whereas in LLB marksheets of first and second year, the registration number has been given during the year 1996 and 1997.”

Noting that Bundel Khand University had also clarified to Tilkamanjhi University, Bhagal Pur, Bihar that no such migration certificate, has been issued with the relevant number to Jitender Singh Tomar from their University, the police said based on all documents a cognizable offence was made out and subsequently Tomar was booked vide FIR No. 605/15 under sections 420/467/468/471 and 120B IPC at Hauz Khas police station.

Rajnath Singh denies interference

Responding to his arrest, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh claimed that his Ministry had nothing to do with it. “There is no question of MHA’s interference in any matter. The law has taken its course.”

Expelled AAP leader, Yogendra Yadav, who has now launched Swaraj Abhiyan, urged Aam Aadmi Party leaders to come clean on the issue. He demanded that if Tomar’s degree was indeed genuine then AAP should make them public. “Why hide behind court procedures. The real issue is not technicalities of Tomar’s arrest, that’s for the courts to decide. Issue here is government’s and party’s refusal to come clean,” he said.

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in a statement criticized the arrest of Delhi’s Law Minister terming it a “shocking instance of  arbitrary exercise of power by the Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung.” It said the Delhi police is  under the jurisdiction of the Lt. Governor and the arrest has been effected when the matter of an alleged false degree acquired by the Minister is before the court.”

The legal opinion on the issue was also divided. Chairman of Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) K.K. Manan claimed that there was no “political vendetta” behind the complaint lodged by the Council on the basis of which Tomar was arrested.

Holding out that it was after taking cognizance of the complaint and investigating them that the police lodged an FIR and arrested Tomar, Manan demanded to know why the Chief Minister was backing Tomar instead of verifying if his certificates were genuine.