Politics

AAP MLAs in Jail: Lawbreakers or Victims of Modi Vendetta?

After the arrest of its Okhla legislator Amanatullah Khan, the Aam Aadmi Party has said there is a ‘dharm yudh‘ between the Kauravas (BJP) and the Pandavas (AAP) going on.

Amanatullah Khan. Credit: Twitter

Amanatullah Khan, AAP MLA from Okhla arrested on July 23. Credit: Twitter

New Delhi: With 10 of his 67 party MLAs now under arrest on various charges, an exasperated Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter on July 23.

His message was clear – he feels his party legislators are being deliberately targeted by the BJP.

On the day Okhla legislator Amanatullah Khan became the 10th MLA from the Aam Aadmi Party to be arrested, Kejriwal also retweeted an AAP News Alert message which described his war against the Narendra Modi led BJP as a ‘dharm yudh‘ (holy war) between the Kauravas (BJP) and the Pandavas (AAP).

Every time an AAP MLA has been arrested, the party has jumped to his or her defence. The only exception was former Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti. After he was arrested in a domestic violence case in December 2015, Kejriwal termed him an embarrassment.

The Delhi police, which has been described as a tool in the hands of the Modi government by the AAP and its leaders, has often stated that 23 of the 67 party MLAs were facing criminal charges dating back to 2010 and this was one of the reasons behind their arrest.

The Wire takes a look at all the MLAs who have been arrested so far, the charges against them and the claims and counterclaims pertaining to the case.

Amanatullah Khan

On July 23, Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan was arrested after a woman alleged that a vehicle he was sitting in tried to mow her down. She recorded her statement before a magistrate on July 22 under Section 164 of the Criminal Penal Code. Earlier, she had alleged on July 19 that a youth had abused and threatened her at the MLA’s residence for raising a power supply issue. Khan was booked and arrested under Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a non-bailable charge. Reacting to his arrest, Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “Modi ji arrests one more AAP MLA”.

Naresh Yadav

Earlier on July 23, Mehrauli MLA Naresh Yadav was arrested by the Punjab police from his residence in connection with the alleged desecration of the Quran in Malerkotla on June 24.

The Punjab police, which had earlier questioned him twice, booked the AAP MLA for promoting enmity between different groups (Section 153A) and abetment (Section 109) of the IPC. They claimed that the prime accused in the case, Vijay, said that he had met Yadav before the crime and they had also spoken several times over the phone. Yadav claimed it was a “political conspiracy” to malign AAP’s image ahead of the 2017 assembly elections in Punjab.

Prakash Jarwal

On July 9, Deoli MLA Prakash Jarwal was arrested on charges of misbehaving with a woman.

Jarwal, who was also arrested in May 2014 for beating up a Delhi Jal Board engineer, claimed that the woman was like a mother to him and that he has been accused as part of a “political game” to defame his party. Jarwal was booked under sections 354, 506, 508 and 34 of the IPC. The BJP had used his case to assert that AAP leaders had no respect for women. BJP party leader in the Delhi assemply Vijender Gupta had said that AAP leaders were emboldened because chief minister Arvind Kejriwal defended even their unruly actions.

Dinesh Mohaniya

On June 25, Sangam Vihar MLA Dinesh Mohaniya was arrested for misbehaving with a woman and slapping a senior citizen. The allegation against him was that he had slapped the 60-year-old man because the latter had failed to recognise him when he was visiting a locality in Tughlakabad. Mohaniya was subsequently booked for voluntarily causing hurt (Section 323), wrongful restraint (341) and act done by several persons (34) of the IPC. He pleaded innocence and accused the BJP of raking up the issue to divert attention from the M.M. Khan murder case.

In the other case, a FIR was lodged against Mohaniya, who is also the vice chairman of the Delhi Jal Board, after he was accused of misbehaving with women in his office when they went to complain about irregular water supply. Mohaniya was booked for criminal intimidation (section 506), word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (section 509) and voluntarily causing hurt (section 323).

Mohaniya had also claimed that he was being targeted for taking on the water mafia.

Mahendra Yadav

Vikaspuri MLA Mahendra Yadav was arrested on January 29, 2015 along with his supporter, Rohan Pandit, for allegedly obstructing traffic on the main Nihal Vihar-Najafgarh road while protesting against the rape of a minor girl.

As he was booked for rioting (sections 147, 148), obstructing a public servant in the discharge of public functions (section 186), assault on a public servant (353) and damage to public property, AAP leaders took to Twitter to slam Delhi police for their action, saying, “It is now a crime in Delhi to protest against the rape of a minor when the police refuses to register an FIR against rape accused”.

The police, on the other hand, accused Yadav of instigating the crowd to violence and leading to a riot.

Somnath Bharti

Malviya Nagar MLA Somnath Bharti was arrested in a domestic violence and attempt to murder case on December 25, 2015, hours after he surrendered in connection with a complaint filed by his wife. Bharti surrendered after the Supreme Court ordered him to give himself up.

The former Delhi law minister had also courted a number of controversies during the 49-day AAP government in 2014, including his infamous midnight raid on African nationals in Khirki Extension, in which several women had accused him of misbehaviour or molestation.

Bharti’s wife Lipika had accused him of domestic violence and attempt to murder. He was subsequently booked for attempt to murder (section 307), cheating and dishonesty (420), punishment for criminal breach of trust (406), punishment for cheating (417), causing miscarriage without woman’s consent (313), voluntarily causing hurt (324), husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty (498-A) and criminal intimidation (506).

Prior to his surrender, AAP had asked Bharti to “immediately” give himself up to avoid “further embarrassment” to the party, while Kejriwal – who had defended him on several occasions in the past – this time termed him an “embarrassment”.

Akhilesh Tripathi

On November 26, 2015, Model Town MLA Akhilesh Tripathi was arrested in a 2013 case of rioting and criminal intimidation after a metropolitan magistrate ordered the Delhi police to take the legislator into custody, “so that his appearance could be secured and the case be tried expeditiously as per the Supreme Court directions as it relates to a sitting MLA”.

The court had earlier on November 23 issued an arrest warrant against the MLA for not appearing before it in the case.

Sarita Singh

On November 22, 2015, Rohtash Nagar MLA Sarita Singh was booked for misbehaving with a police official on duty. The police claimed that her driver had hit a police official’s motorbike while reversing his car and as an argument broke out between the driver and the officer, the MLA intervened and allegedly abused the assistant sub inspector. Subsequently, a case was registered for obstructing a public servant in the discharge of public functions (section 186), rash driving (279) and criminal intimidation (506) of the IPC. The MLA was, however, not arrested.

Surender Singh

On August 21, 2015, Delhi Cantonment MLA Surender Singh was arrested for allegedly making casteist remarks against an NDMC sanitary inspector. A former commando, Singh was arrested along with his driver Praveen and assistant Pankaj for allegedly making casteist remarks against Ram Jeevan Meena, who belonged to a Scheduled Caste, and of obstructing him during an anti-encroachment check near Race Course Road. Meena also accused Singh and his driver of punching NDMC worker Mukesh Kumar.

The MLA, who as a commando had participated in the Mumbai 26/11 operations, claimed that the complaint had been lodged to deliberately “tarnish” his image and insisted that he was only trying to save a poor vegetable vendor. His associates accused the police of manhandling him.

Senior AAP leader Ashutosh had tweeted: “Modi govt protects corrupts of CNG Fitness scam and arrests patriot commando Surender who faced bullets of terrorists during 26/11 attack (sic)”.

Manoj Kumar

On July 10, 2015, Kondli MLA Manoj Kumar was arrested in a case of cheating and land grabbing.

The MLA was booked for cheating (section 420), forgery for purpose of cheating (468) and using as genuine a forged document (471) of the IPC after the complainant, Vinod Kumar, alleged that he had paid Rs 6 lakh to Manoj to purchase a plot in 2012 but the latter had not returned the amount.

The complainant had alleged that Manoj Kumar – who was a property dealer before entering politics – had produced fake proprietorship documents of a plot in Kondli, which was actually owned by one M.L. Verma. He had then accepted Rs 6 lakh from Vijay Kumar, as part payment of Rs 21 lakh.

Both the Congress and the BJP had demanded action against the accused and stressed the need for quickly filling the post of Lokayukta, which was lying vacant then, to deal with such complaints.

Jitendra Singh Tomar

On June 9, 2015, Delhi law minister Jitendra Singh Tomar was arrested in fake degree case. He was booked for cheating and fraud after a university from Bhagalpur in Bihar submitted before a Delhi court that the AAP legislator was never on its rolls, despite claiming to possess a degree issued by it.

Reacting to the developments, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, had tweeted: “Emergency-like situation in Delhi. Is he a terrorist, has he set off a bomb in Delhi to be arrested? Mr. Tomar has been arrested to deter Delhi Government to act against corruption.”

The reasoning did not find support with former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav, who started the NGO Swaraj Abhiyan after being expelled from AAP. He tweeted that he and Prashant Bhushan had raised the question of Tomar around four months earlier. “If his degrees are genuine, why not make them public? Why hide behind court procedures?” he asked.

Yadav further stated, “The real issue is not technicalities of Tomar’s arrest; that’s for courts to decide. Issue here is govt’s and party’s refusal to come clean”.