A Delhi court Thursday awarded a six-month prison term to AAP MLA Som Dutt for assaulting a man with a baseball bat, observing that “the convict was a lawmaker and therefore, by the very nature of his position, has to be a law abiding citizen. We as a society cannot be used to such crimes”.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal, in his order, said: “The convict was a Member of Legislative Assembly of Delhi before the incident and was contesting the upcoming assembly elections. It means he is a public representative. He has committed the offence knowing its gravity and consequences.”
This is the second sentencing of a sitting AAP MLA in a week after the court awarded a three-month jail term to Manoj Kumar, the AAP legislator from Kondli, for obstructing poll process.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on Dutt, out of which Rs 1 lakh has to be paid as compensation to the complainant, failing which the MLA will be sent to two-month imprisonment. The court granted bail to the MLA after he expressed his wish to appeal against the conviction.
The incident took place in January 2015, when the complainant Sanjeev Rana had alleged he was assaulted by Dutt, who showed up outside his house in Gulabi Bagh with a group of men. Rana told The Indian Express, “I sustained grievous injuries and fought for many years.”
He said he wasn’t satisfied with the verdict since it meant “an MLA can beat anyone and get a lenient sentence”.
Lalit Pingolia, the assistant public prosecutor for state, submitted that the “offence is grave in nature” and that the “convict is an MLA and a role model for the public. Therefore, the punishment should be deterrent and set an example to those who break the law”.
The counsel for Dutt, B S Joon, prayed for leniency in punishment, submitting that he is 40 years of age, the father of two children and has no previous criminal record.
“He has a wife and two children aged nine months and one month to look after. Till 2013, he was a government employee and after that he joined Aam Aadmi Party. He is an MLA for the second term and was implicated in this case due to political rivalry. It is submitted that he is immensely popular in his area and if substantive punishment is given, it will be a loss to his constituency,” Joon told the court.
ACMM Samar Vishal orally observed: “Then should all popular people be given a licence for misconduct?”
The court said the incident did not take place in the spur of the moment, but was rather premeditated assault done with a baseball bat.
“The complainant suffered fracture of fibula, which is an important part of the body. I can realise the pain and agony suffered by him by this attack,” the court said.
“Respect for the law is the first condition for a civilised society. Nobody has more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make it. Law without justice is a wound without cure,” it added.