Updated: December 23, 2014 5:13:20 am
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday allowed former Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti’s plea to be heard in the case accusing him and his supporters of “racially abusing and humiliating” 12 African women this January.
In what may come as partial relief to the Aam Aadmi Party MLA, the commission also deferred the payment of compensation of Rs 25,000 to each of the 12 women by the Delhi government by two months.
Sources in the NHRC, however, said the commission has not recalled its order of September 29 in which it had observed that the human rights of the women were violated and it was a fit case for award of monetary relief.
Bharti had urged the commission to recall its order contending that the commission had not heard him before passing the order. Under Section 16 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, the NHRC can accord a person an opportunity to be heard if their rights are likely to be prejudiced by the commission’s inquiry.
The commission will hear Bharti on January 13.
In its earlier order, the commission, after considering the reports of B L Garg, retired additional district and sessions judge and its own investigation team, had observed that “the then law minister, with his supporters, humiliated the African women and wrongfully confined them in a vehicle on the ground that they were indulging in a sex racket and drug trafficking. But when they were illegally searched by a lady doctor at AIIMS, no drug could be recovered. They were also abused racially.”
The incident dates back to the intervening night of January 15-16, when Bharti led a midnight raid in south Delhi’s Khirki extension, accusing some African nationals of carrying out illegal activities. Bharti carried out the raid himself after the Delhi police allegedly refused to do so stating that they did not have the necessary warrant to carry out such a raid.
The NHRC had observed that Bharti had “violated the law while holding a constitutional post”.
Separately, arguing before the bench of Justice V K Shali, Bharti told the High Court that the NHRC order directing compensation to the 12 African women was a “nullity in law” because the commission had violated the principles of natural justice by not giving him a hearing.
Central government’s standing counsel Jasmeet Singh and additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain, however, told the court that the NHRC had issued notice to Bharti, and advocate Deepak Khosla had appeared on his behalf before the commission.
Bharti then filed an affidavit before the court, alleging that though he had in fact appeared before the NHRC, the commission had not agreed to withdraw the ex parte order issued on 29 September.
The High Court is now expected to hear the matter on Tuesday.
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