New Delhi

New Delhi: In a development that has provoked accusations against the Centre for “single-handedly targeting” the Aam Aadmi Party, the Delhi Police is preparing to file charge-sheet against 21 AAP legislators in 24 different cases registered against them in the past two years. The names of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel are also included in the list.

This, despite the fact that AAP MLAs are not the only ones to face criminal cases. According to Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), 98 (35 percent) out of 281 MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and 8 (18 percent) out of 44 Congress lawmakers are facing criminal cases against them. Some of the charges against them are heinous one.

Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal and his deputy Sisodia both have cases against them. PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal and his deputy Sisodia both have cases against them. PTI

Notably, majority of the AAP legislators, who may face arrest, have charges of criminal defamation, violating prohibitory orders and preventing government officials from discharging their duties. A few have serious criminal cases of forgery, cheating, molestation, and property grabbing against them.

From criminal defamation, violating prohibitory orders to obstructing government servants from discharging their duties, six cases are registered against Chief Minister Kejriwal. Six charge-sheets have been filed against him so far for the same set of cases. There are two charges against him which fall under non-bailable offences. He may be convicted or acquitted in one of the cases scheduled to be heard in August.

Kejriwal’s trusted lieutenant and AAP’s Patparganj MLA Sisodia is also facing a charge of violating prohibitory orders. An FIR was filed against him for taking part in the sit-in staged at Railway Bhawan in January 2014.

AAP’s MLA from Kondli Manoj Kumar faces charges of instigating police men, misbehaving with women, molestation, cheating and forgery. Uttam Nagar MLA Naresh Baliyan is facing the charges of storage of liquor for allegedly distributing it among voters, beating up and threatening people.

An FIR under section sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of duty) of the IPC have been filed against Tilak Nagar MLA Jarnail Singh, who has been declared absconding by the Delhi Police.

Former law minister and AAP Malaviya Nagar MLA Somnath Bharti, who was in the news for conducting a mid-night raid on a drug and prostitution racket allegedly being run by African nationals in Khirkee Extension of his constituency, could be chargesheeted in a fresh case of domestic violence filed by his wife Lipika Mitra.

Already under investigation for possessing fake educational degrees, Tri Nagar MLA and Ex-Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar, Delhi Cantonment MLA Surinder Singh and Karol Bagh MLA Ravi are facing the charges of cheating and forgery.

However, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi denied having any knowledge about the chargesheets to be filed against the AAP lawmakers but said “our objective is to complete the investigations into all pending cases at the earliest and bring the facts before the court”.

Political experts believe such a massive crackdown on AAP leaders is nothing but a “political vendetta”. They accused the Centre of misusing the Delhi Police to suppress the party.

Senior political commentator Neerja Chowdhury feels acting on complaints and taking action against the culprits is welcomed but the reported crackdown on 21 leaders of a particular political party, which is at loggerhead with the Centre for not being allowed to work independently, appears to be “selective” police action.

“Given the present state-centre relations, the planned police action, if true, is only a political vendetta. Many leaders of both Congress and the BJP are facing similar charges or even heinous one. But there is no action against them. Some of them even hold important portfolios. Why there is no proactive action against them,” she told Firstpost.

The move will further increase political animosity between the two ruling parties, she says. “Such targeting will further worsen the Centre-Delhi relations. It is not expected from Prime Minister Mr Modi who is considered as someone who believes in ‘cooperative federalism’. His party appears to be hell bent on revenge of the humiliating defeat it faced at the hands of AAP,” she added.

Sukumar Muralidharan, senior journalist and fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, feels the Delhi Police is playing to the partisan agenda of the LG of Delhi.

“Law and order is a state subject. Though not so in Delhi, the possibilities of elected representatives with criminal records being brought to book are better here than elsewhere. But this also means that power will be used for vindictive and purely partisan purposes that undermine the law rather than reinforce it,” he told Firstpost.

Asked why he is raising questions on the police action when efforts are being made to bring leaders having criminal charges to book, he replied, “I support the separation of powers, so that the power to investigate members of the elected legislature for supposed malfeasance should not belong to the executive created by an elected legislature. It should belong to an autonomous agency. The Delhi Police is certainly not autonomous and is playing to the partisan agenda of the LG of Delhi, who has shown himself to be all too willing to be a slave of the BJP.”

Senior journalist Shesh Narain Singh accused the BJP, which is ruling the Centre with other allies, of being “revengeful” and asked, “Did they (the police) prepare charge-sheet against MPs who have criminal cases against them?”

AAP leader Ashutosh alleged that the story of 21 MLAs of his party are to be arrested has been “planted” by the Modi government to “divert attention from Sushma Swaraj’s issue”.

“My name is missing in the list of people to be arrested by Delhi Police. Many cases Ag me also. Feeling left out and unimportant (sic),” he tweeted.

Rubbishing all allegations, Delhi BJP spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay said the Delhi Police is not working under any political pressure. “Every state police should as per the IPC and CrPc evidence act and the Delhi Police is also doing the same. It is not culture of the BJP to use investigating agencies. The AAP should welcome the decision. If its leaders are innocent, they will come out clean. The party is worried because it knows well that its leaders have criminal background and if their cases are open, they will go to jail,” he told Firstpost adding that the Kejriwal-led party will lose its majority because of its tainted leaders.

He said the issue of AAP giving tickets to people having criminal records was first raised from within the party by its internal Lokpal Admiral Ramdas and former members Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. “But instead of lending ears to their allegations and taking corrective steps,  Kejriwal humiliated and booted them out from the party. It happened in a party which talks about ethics, clean and alternative politics and swaraj and transparency,” he added.

He alleged the AAP government in the city is not appointing a lokayukta because it knows that if it does so, majority of its leaders will go behind bars.

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