Two AAP MLAs were today arrested and sent to judicial custody in connection with an alleged assault on Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash as the row between legislators and bureaucrats in the city triggered a political slugfest, with parties levelling sharp charges against one other.
The ruling Aam Aadmi Party rejected the assault allegation and claimed its two legislators had been targeted because one was a Dalit and the other a member of a minority community.
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While AAP maintained the assault charge was a move to malign the party's image, the police released the report of a medical examination of the chief secretary which said he had a "bruise" on his lower lip and "swelling" behind the ears.
In a move that may further exacerbate matters, members of a Delhi Assembly panel recommended privilege proceedings for contempt of House against Prakash after he skipped its meeting on an ongoing probe in alleged irregularities in a cooperative bank.
Members of the Question and Reference Committee, headed by Deputy Speaker Rakhi Birla, also recommended action against office-bearers of the IAS officers' association for asking bureaucrats to "boycott meetings", a charge denied by the association.
Delhi's bureaucrats, who said yesterday they would not hold meetings with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his ministers till he apologised, continued with their protest against the city government, with officers coming to work wearing black bands tied to their arms as a mark of outrage against the alleged attack.
Political parties cried foul over the alleged assault, too, with members of the Congress and BJP's Delhi units meeting Lt. Governor Anil Baijal to voice their concern.
The Congress delegation led by its Delhi chief Ajay Maken and former chief minister Sheila Dikshit urged Baijal to ensure security for administrative officers, while the BJP team led by Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta demanded strong police action against Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and nine other MLAs allegedly involved in the incident.
Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain also met Baijal and demanded action against those involved in an alleged assault on him at the Secretariat yesterday.
Baijal submitted a report on the incident regarding Prakash to the Home ministry today.
"The report from the LG has been received and it is under examination. Criminal aspects of the case are being taken care of by the Delhi Police, while the home ministry is looking into administrative issues such as misbehaviour with a government servant," a Home Ministry official said.
AAP rejected the charges of assault by its MLAs with party leader Ashutosh saying Prakash had not produced any evidence against the two arrested MLAs, Prakash Jarwal and Amanatullah Khan.
He said an attempt was being made to malign the party's image.
Delhi Chief Secretary assault case: CM Arvind Kejriwal’s adviser VK Jain arrested
"Eleven MLAs were present at the meeting at the chief minister's residence and yet only Prakash Jarwal, a Dalit MLA, and Amantullah Khan were arrested. Why," Ashutosh asked. Khan was arrested earlier in the day after he appeared at the Jamia Nagar police station. Deoli legislator Jarwal, who was detained last night, was also arrested, a police official said. They were later sent to judicial custody.
The police also questioned Delhi chief minister's adviser VK Jain for three hours about the alleged attack on Prakash, who was medically examined at the Aruna Asaf Ali hospital yesterday.
The medico legal case (MLC) report after Prakash's examination mentioned a "swelling" behind both ears and the cheek bone as well as a "bruise" on the lower lip.
Prakash had alleged yesterday that he was attacked by the AAP MLAs after he had been asked to attend a meeting at Kejriwal's residence late on Monday night.
The AAP raised an outcry over the arrest of its two MLAs.
"The BJP wants to finish off the Aam Aadmi Party by hatching conspiracies and the Centre wants to dismiss the AAP government in Delhi," party leader Sanjay Singh said, claiming that the Delhi Police was working under pressure from the Home minister. Khan said before he was arrested that the BJP and the Congress were "out in the open" with their demand for dismissing the AAP government.
"There is no proof that the chief secretary was beaten up. On the contrary, our minister was beaten up, our volunteers were targeted but there is no action on this," Khan told reporters.
BJP's Gupta, after meeting the Lt Governor, demanded strong police action against Kejriwal, Sisodia and the other MLAs.
Gupta said the Kejriwal government was working like a "bunch of goondas" and deserved to be dismissed while asserting that the chief secretary's medical report exposed AAP's "web of lies and deceit".
Congress leader Maken said the delegation which met Baijal requested him to ensure the security of administrative officers to enable them to work with dignity and self-respect.
Despite the political furore, it was business as usual at the Delhi Secretariat with bureaucrats, including Prakash, performing their duties as always, though no meetings were held with AAP ministers through the day.
Delhi's bureaucrats have said they will maintain written communication with the legislators.
Court sends 2 AAP MLAs to jail
The Delhi Government suffered a setback today as the court sent two MLAs to judicial custody in Tihar Jail till. The court would hear their bail pleas.
The Tees Hazari court rejected Delhi Police's plea for custodial interrogation of AAP MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal.
Metropolitan Magistrate Shefali Barnala Tondon refused the plea of the Delhi Police to quiz them in custody for two days, saying that the legislators were ready to cooperate in the investigation and no case property was to be recovered from them, which was the basic purpose of police custody.
"The basic purpose of granting police custody (PC) remand is recovery of case property which is to the exclusion of others, except the accused. In the present matter, the only ground which remains for seeking PC is to establish the motive and confrontation inter-se which is not the purpose of remand. Hence the applications are dismissed," the magistrate said.
However, the court sent them to judicial custody for a day while noting that there were criminal cases pending against both the accused and there was a probability of prosecution witnesses being threatened by the accused.
They were arrested in connection with the alleged assault on the bureaucrat during a meeting at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence on the night of February 19. While Jarwal, an MLA from Deoli, was arrested last night, party legislator from Jamia Nagar, Khan, was taken into custody this afternoon.
"The grounds of judicial remand are found justified, as admittedly, there are criminal cases pending against both accused persons and likelihood of threatening the prosecution witnesses or tampering with the evidence cannot be ruled out. Therefore both the accused are remanded to judicial custody till tomorrow," the court said.
It also directed the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) to personally monitor the investigations to ensure fair and impartial investigation. “It is a highly sensitive matter. Concerned DCP to monitor the case personally,” the magistrate said.
In its order, the court recorded the submission of the defence counsel that medical examination (MLC) was conducted on Prakash after the lodging of the FIR and nothing was to be recovered from the MLAs.
“It was submitted that MLC (of Prakash) was conducted after registration of FIR and nothing has to be recovered from the accused. They have submitted it is a political gimmick. The police custody application is dismissed,” the court said.
Earlier in the day, top officers from IAS and DANICS cadres had sought an appointment with President Ram Nath Kovind seeking action against those involved in the alleged attack. Yesterday, a delegation of IAS and Delhi and Andaman Nicobar Island Civil Services (DANICS) officers had met Home Rajnath Singh in this regard.
The two MLAs were produced before the court today amid tight security as a large number of AAP workers and lawyers were also present there.
During the hearing, public prosecutor Atul Srivastava sought two-day police custody of both the MLAs saying they had committed a serious crime of assaulting and humiliating the senior-most officer of the state.
Due to this, the officer has sustained serious injuries and the medical examination report has also been submitted in this regard, he said.
Opposing the plea, advocate B S Joon, appearing for the MLAs, said they are public representatives and not hardened criminals and “this is a fallout of power struggle between the Centre and the NCT of Delhi.”
During the hearing, the prosecutor submitted that a total of 11 persons were involved in the incident and the two MLAs have to be confronted with other accused to unearth the larger conspiracy and the role of the other accused, who are yet to be arrested, also needed to be ascertained. He also claimed that it was a serious case of assault and the two MLAs were not cooperating in the probe.
Srivastava claimed that Anshu Prakash was intimidated by the accused and none of the MLAs present there came forward to save him.
Countering the allegations, Joon said the MLAs were ready to cooperate in the probe and alleged that the charge of assaulting public servant was invoked in the FIR without conducting the MLC of the bureaucrat.
He also submitted that as per the footage of the CCTV installed at the chief minister’s house, the chief secretary’s vehicle entered and exited within 7 minutes and 8 seconds.
In his complaint, Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash had alleged that the two legislators "started hitting and assaulting" him at the meeting "with blows on head and temple". The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has denied the allegations.
A case was registered at Civil Lines Police Station in north Delhi on Prakash's complaint for the offences including those punishable under sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharging duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.