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The trial in criminal defamation proceedings filed by Union Minister Arun Jaitley against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders is now set to resume, with the Delhi High court on Wednesday dismissing a plea for its stay. The bench of Justice PS Teji in a 30-page judgment has dismissed the plea and has said that the civil defamation suit filed by Jaitley before the Delhi High Court and the criminal defamation complaint before the trial court were “separate proceedings”.
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“Nothing have been brought before this court to the effect that continuation of criminal proceedings is abuse of the process of law before the CMM and any order is required by this court to secure the ends of justice. Thus, this court is of the view that the order of the CMM, dated May 19, 2016 continuing with the proceedings is free from perversity, impropriety, illegality and non-sustainability which compelled this court to exercise the inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr PC,” the court said.
The AAP leaders had sought a stay on the criminal defamation proceedings pending before the trial court on grounds that Jaitley had filed two cases simultaneously, which amounted to ‘double jeopardy’ as the AAP leaders would be tried twice for the same offence. The AAP leaders had argued that “parallel proceedings” could not be held. During the proceedings, senior advocate Ram Jethalani had also argued for “postponement” of the criminal trial till the civil proceedings in the high court were concluded. Jaitley’s lawyers had opposed the plea, claiming that there would be “no prejudice” caused to the AAP leaders even if both cases were heard simultaneously.
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The bench in its judgment has now held that the two proceedings did not violate the rule of double jeopardy which mandates that a person cannot be tried in a court of law twice for the same offence. “Though it is correct that the parties in both cases are the same, but the fact remains that both the cases are different in nature,” the bench noted. The detailed judgment is likely to be released later this evening.
On 21 December 2015, Arun Jaitley had filed a criminal defamation case against the Delhi CM and five other AAP leaders — Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai. If held guilty, an accused faces up to 2 years imprisonment and fine. Jaitley had also filed a civil defamation suit seeking Rs 10 crore in damage from the AAP leaders before the Delhi High court. The union finance minister has accused the AAP leaders of issuing false and defamatory statement against him and his family in connection with alleged irregularities in DDCA, when Jaitley was the association’s president. The court granted bail to Kejriwal and others on April 7 after they appeared before it.
Jaitley has alleged that Kejriwal and other AAP leaders had made defamatory statements against him and his family that they had made pecuniary gains by associating with M/s 21st Century Media Pvt Ltd, a sports management firm. On January 5, Jaitley had appeared in the trial court for hearing in the criminal defamation case and had recorded his statement as the complainant witness in the case. He had told the court that Kejriwal and five AAP leaders had made “false and defamatory” statements. In the civil defamation suit pending before the high court, issues were framed for trial of the suit on July 12. Both parties are yet to file lists of witnesses, and the date of hearing is now fixed for December 5.