AAP MLA Somnath Bharti gets two years in jail for assaulting security staff at AIIMS; party calls it 'injustice'

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party MLA and former Delhi minister Somnath Bharti was on Saturday sentenced to two years in jail by a court here in a 2016 case related to assaulting AIIMS security staff and causing damage to hospital property.

The mindset to cause damage to public property and infrastructure was an attack on the common man, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey said, as he rejected Bharti's plea to release him on probation but granted him bail to enable filing of an appeal in a higher court.

The judge, who also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Bharti, said he was well educated and an MLA and, therefore, aware of the consequences of committing the offence.

Bharti said in a statement that he has "full faith" in the judiciary and he is going to file an appeal against his conviction.

The ruling AAP in Delhi backed its MLA from Malviya Nagar, claiming that "injustice" has been meted out to Bharti and expressed the hope that he will get justice at the appellate level.

The BJP demanded that Bharti be disqualified from the Delhi Assembly and expelled from the party.

In its statement, the AAP said, "We respect the judiciary and have full faith in the judiciary. However, we feel an injustice has happened to Mr Somnath Bharti in this case."

The party said Bharti is filing an appeal. "We are confident that justice will be done to him at the appellate level," it said.

"Somnath is a very popular leader and is loved by everyone in his constituency. He works 24 hours for his people. People are quite sad in his constituency as the news of his conviction is spreading," the AAP said.

According to the prosecution, on 9 September, 2016, Bharti, along with his around 300 associates, broke the boundary fence of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, with JCB for creating access to AIIMS.

The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by RS Rawat, Chief Security Officer, AIIMS.

The court is of the considered view that prosecution has duly proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt against accused Somnath Bharti, the judge said.

The court convicted Bharti for various offences punishable under IPC, including section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 353 (assault or use of criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 147 (rioting).

It also held Bharti guilty under section 3 (mischief causing damage to public property) of the Prevention of Damage to the Public Property Act.

Experts said Bharti may not face an immediate disqualification and all will depend on whether the higher court orders a stay in the case.

"I have sought legal opinion in the matter and will take decisions accordingly and as per law," Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said when asked about the matter.

Bharti had told the court that police officials and witnesses deposed falsely against him to implicate him in the case.

During the arguments, he sought leniency from the court and prayed that he be released on probation.

The prosecution, however, sought maximum punishment of a five-year jail term for Bharti.

The court is of the view that the mindset to cause damage to the public property and infrastructure is an attack on the common man. The infrastructure and public property of the country are not of any leader, party or government but these are national assets.

The infrastructure is built with the contribution of every poor, every taxpayer, middle class and every section of society. While exercising democratic rights, people must not forget about the national duty to preserve the national assets and resources meant for each and every citizen, the judge said.

While denying the AAP leader the benefit of probation, the judge said, Bharti is a well-educated person having qualification of M.Sc.(IIT Delhi) and he is also Law Graduate and he is also Member of Legislative Assembly.

He was well aware of the consequences of committing the offence and he actively participated in the commission of the offence in order to damage the Public Property belonging to the AIIMS, New Delhi. Hence, the court is not inclined to grant him the benefit of The Probation of Offender Act, the court said.

The court, however, acquitted Bharti's associates and co-accused - Jagat Saini, Dileep Jha, Sandeep Sonu and Rakesh Pandey - citing lack of evidence.

The AAP leader is not new to controversies. In 2014, as the law minister in the then Kejriwal government, he led a late-night vigilante raid against some African women, accusing them of being drug runners.

In 2015, he was arrested in connection with a domestic violence case lodged by his wife. He was later cleared of the charge.

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