On the morning of June 9, Manish Sisodia made a detailed presentation of his government's vision at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The deputy chief minister of Delhi was patient and gave elaborate answers to the first round of questions. Soon, however, he grew restless and requested the audience to keep their queries brief. “As you know, we have issues with the lieutenant governor [Najeeb Jung], and I have to rush to attend to an urgent matter,” he said.
In the next few minutes, news of the arrest of Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar trickled in. A Delhi Police team had reached Tomar's constituency office in Tri Nagar and had taken him to the Hauz Khas police station. He was arrested for allegedly using fake education certificates, including a law degree from Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University in Bihar. Later that day, a magistrate's court remanded him to four days of police custody and he resigned as law minister.
Tomar's arrest came in the backdrop of the ongoing tussle between Jung and the Aam Aadmi Party government. The AAP accused the Union government and Jung of resorting to “vendetta politics” and creating an “Emergency-like” situation.
AAP sources said they had known a day before the arrest that the police were coming for someone prominent in the party. “We zeroed in on Tomar as a case was already going on against him. He was even alerted about it,” said a source in the chief minister’s office.
AAP leaders said there was no need for the police to show such hurry to arrest Tomar, especially as the case was already in the Delhi High Court. They said about 40 policemen reached Tomar’s office on the pretext of seeking some clarifications in the fake degree case. When Tomar said some papers were at his home, they said they would accompany him there. “Tomar is not a mafia guy,” said Sisodia. “He had not carried out a bomb blast. Why was he picked up like a terrorist?”
The metropolitan magistrate said the arrest seemed like a farcical exercise. Tomar was first arrested and then served a notice hours later. The police said the arrest followed a complaint received from the Bar Council of Delhi a month ago. It was after visiting the universities concerned that they decided to arrest Tomar and charge him with forgery and cheating. “He has been arrested within the parameters of law…. It is unfair to give it a political hue,” said Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi.
“Perhaps, for the first time, we have had a situation where the law minister of a state has a fake law degree,” said Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken. “We should not get into how and where the police arrested him.”
His party's clean image at stake, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is on the backfoot. There is speculation about why he stuck by Tomar, an import from the Congress, even as the controversy raged.
It was an 'I told you so' moment for former AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. “The issue is the refusal of the government and the party to come clean. We raised the question four months ago,” said Yadav.
The party, meanwhile, has been quick to distance itself from Tomar. “Why will we go to court? Tomar will go to court,” said a senior AAP leader.
The controversy could be the beginning of fresh trouble for the party. AAP leader Somnath Bharti’s wife has filed a complaint of domestic violence with the Delhi Commission for Women. MLA Surender Singh has also been accused of having a fake degree. And, according to the Delhi Congress, there are more complaints pending with the state lokayukta against eight AAP leaders.