Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is set to be tried simultaneously in civil and criminal defamation cases filed against him by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, with the Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissing his appeal to stay the criminal prosecution. “It is not a fit case where we should interfere. We have gone through the records and we decline to intervene,” said a bench of Justices P C Ghose and Uday U Lalit as it rejected Kejriwal’s plea to spare him the criminal prosecution until the civil defamation case is decided.
The bench observed that senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who argued for Kejriwal, had failed to adduce any legal provision or a judicial precedent to show that if both civil and criminal cases are filed against a person on the same facts, criminal proceedings should be stayed till the outcome of the civil case.
“Can you show us any provision in the Evidence Act or the Criminal Procedure Code that says criminal proceedings should stop if there is a civil case pending? You will have to show us a legal provision that gives pre-eminence to civil proceedings. There are various judgments that have said that if both the remedies of civil as well criminal proceedings are available to a person, he can avail both. So how can we now say that criminal proceedings must wait for a decision of a civil case,” the court asked Jethmalani.
In response, Jethmalani read out three judgments — all under charges of adultery and other matrimonial offences — to buttress his point that criminal proceedings should be stayed. “When there is already a civil defamation suit of Rs 10 crore being tried and evidence shall be recorded therein, why should I be criminally prosecuted under summary proceedings? Let us not forget that this matter is virtually between the Prime Minister and a small chief minister,” he said.
But the bench asked Jethmalani to confine to the facts of the case and point out the relevant parts of the judgments to corroborate why the criminal case should be stalled. “You show us either from law or any of our judgments. We will confine ourselves only to the records of this case,” it told Jethmalani.
The senior lawyer then read out certain paragraphs of the judgments, but the court said: “If you say that findings arrived in the civil case shall be binding on the trial court where the defamation case is being prosecuted, then should we not stay the civil case and ask the magistrate to go on?”
At this, Jethmalani contended that there was no protection to his client in the criminal case and that the court must protect the chief minister. However, the bench said it was not supposed to see the individuals but only the records of the case.
“We will not go into whether what you said constitutes any offence or not since that is a separate matter. In this case, we think it is not a fit case to interfere and stay the trial. We are sorry,” said the bench, while dismissing Kejriwal’s appeal against an order of the Delhi High Court which had also declined to stay his criminal prosecution.