Pressure mounted on the Arvind Kejriwal government to drop Somnath Bharti as law minister as calls for his resignation turned into a chorus Thursday and a Delhi court, police, a judicial commission and the women’s panel said they were probing his alleged role in a midnight raid that targeted Ugandan women who he claimed were part of a drug-and-prostitution racket in Khirki Extension, south Delhi.
Retired additional district and sessions judge B L Garg, who has been asked to head the judicial probe into the January 15 incident, said he began his work a day after he was entrusted the task by the Lt Governor. “The probe effectively began on January 21,” Garg said. Three executive officers will assist him in the probe.
Garg said summons were issued on Wednesday to several persons linked to the incident and since Bharti’s alleged role is a part of the probe, he will be examined during the inquiry. “I have been asked to complete the probe within 30 days… whether it will be concluded within that period or not will depend on the nature of the evidence that I receive,” Garg said.
He said he is yet to ask the police for assistance into the inquiry but parallel investigations into the incident by multiple fora shall not affect his probe. In the wake of the incident, the women claimed they had been assaulted by unidentified men who forced them to undergo medical tests. Four separate complaints were lodged with the Malviya Nagar police station and a court on January 18 directed the police to register an FIR and conduct a detailed investigation.
Rakesh Sherawat, a lawyer representing two Ugandan women who said they were assaulted, said metropolitan magistrate Chetna Singh has sought an action-taken report from the police on Thursday. A police officer said Bharti is likely to be called for questioning because one of the Ugandan women had identified him in a television clip of the incident. The complainant claimed the minister, along with his supporters, conducted a midnight raid in Khirki Extension and misbehaved with African women.
Speaking to The Indian Express, the woman said: “The man on television was the same Indian man who was shouting outside our houses that night, saying blacks indulge in illegal activities. I saw the man with the muffler on television and told police. They have made a note of it.”
The Delhi Commission for Women has also summoned Bharti after five Ugandan women recorded their complaints with the panel, chairperson Barkha Singh said. “We had asked him to appear before the commission yesterday but he did not show up. We will be sending another summon to him through the SHO concerned. If he still does not appear, we shall write to the Lt Governor and the Delhi Police Commissioner,” she said. Singh said three women claimed that unknown persons forcibly entered their house at night, demanded their passports and began opening suitcases. The women alleged that they were made to take off their clothes while checking for the key, she said. “Two of the Ugandan women have stated that they were stopped while returning from work and forced to give urine samples while sitting in a taxi,” Singh said.