HC sets aside NHRC order against AAP leader Somnath Bharti

DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday set aside an NHRC order holding Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti guilty of “racial prejudice and unlawful acts” against 12 African women during his controversial midnight raid in Khirki Extension in South Delhi earlier this year. A vacation bench of justices S Muralidhar and Manmohan Singh, while setting aside the September 29 ruling of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), also directed it to hear the entire matter afresh and allow Bharti to lead any evidence.

“… The reports already before it (NHRC) will be taken as the basic materials for the full-fledged hearing. It has already directed that the appellant (Bharti) be furnished with copies of such materials. If Bharti wishes to lead any evidence in terms of section 19 (b) of the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), he shall be permitted to do so by NHRC. The court, therefore, sets aside the order passed by the NHRC on September 29, 2014 as not being in consonance with Section 16 of the PHRA. The entire matter will be heard afresh,” the court said.

The court also directed Delhi Police Commissioner and the Delhi government to ensure they are represented before NHRC. The court set aside the single judge order rejecting Bharti’s plea as “premature”. It passed the order while disposing of Bharti’s appeal against its single judge’s December 23 decision to dismiss his petition against the NHRC’s September 29 ruling. Allowing Bharti’s plea, the court observed that NHRC had suo motu taken action against Bharti.

“In fact the September 29, 2014, order was passed without any party being heard by the NHRC. As far as December 22, 2014 is concerned only Bharti was heard,” the court noted. Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain appeared for the Union of India in the matter.

On the intervening night of January 15-16 Bharti and his supporters had allegedly forcibly detained and threatened some African women during a confrontation with police at Khirki extension here over inaction against a suspected prostitution ring. Bharti in his appeal, filed through advocate Deepak Khosla, had contended that the single judge had dismissed his plea without “allowing fair opportunity to explain the facts of the situation before the NHRC”. He had also sought a compensation of Rs 100 crore from the Centre, NHRC and the city government.