After his March 15 apology to former Punjab Minister Bikram Singh Majithia, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal has written similar letters to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, and Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s lawyer son Amit Sibal, expressing regret for his “unfounded allegations” against them. Gadkari had filed a criminal defamation suit after Kejriwal named him in a list of “India’s most corrupt” on January 31, 2014. Earlier, on May 15, 2013, Kejriwal had alleged a conflict of interest in Amit Sibal appearing in court for a telecom firm while Kapil Sibal was Communications Minister, provoking Amit Sibal to take the Delhi Chief Minister and his deputy Manish Sisodia to court.
Both criminal defamation cases were disposed of on Monday after Gadkari and Sibal accepted Kejriwal’s apology. The apology to Majithia had triggered angry responses from the AAP’s Punjab unit, with some leaders threatening to split the party. That crisis was averted after, the party’s Delhi unit says, Kejriwal and Sisodia explained to the Punjab leaders the rationale for the apology.
According to sources, Kejriwal told them the BJP government had launched an attack on four fronts to weaken the party: “raids and probes on trumped up charges”, “threat of a constitutional crisis”, “not allowing governance to take place by creating obstacles”, and the legal threat of “frivolous but draining cases across the country”.
An AAP leader told The Indian Express, “In an ideal world, everyone would have to live by the words they speak. But that is not possible when the legal system can be manipulated to exhaust a small party like ours.” Some leaders expressed apprehension that a criminal conviction could potentially lead to Kejriwal being disqualified as an MLA. “Where does AAP go without Kejriwal?” asked a leader.
Even after settling with Majithia, Gadkari and Sibal, the Delhi Chief Minister faces about a dozen unresolved cases in court and FIRs lodged with the police.
Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister
The cross-examination of Jaitley ended in February after Kejriwal put more than 300 questions to him in the space of 11 days. Jaitley has filed a Rs 10-crore suit against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders — Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh and Deepak Bajpai. A civil defamation case was filed in Delhi High Court, and a criminal defamation case was filed in a lower court in Delhi. A separate case of defamation was filed against Kejriwal after certain remarks that Ram Jethmalani, his lawyer at the time, made during the trial. The next dates of hearing are April 3 in the High Court, and April 8 in the lower court.
Pawan Khera, former aide to Sheila Dikshit
The first defamation case against Kejriwal was filed by Khera, then political secretary to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, for alleged “derogatory remarks” in connection with the increase in power tariffs, during protests in October 2012. A Delhi court issued summons to Kejriwal in January 2013. Khera is being cross-questioned currently; the next hearing is on April 9.
Ankit Bhardwaj, BJP leader
Court notices were issued to Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh in a civil defamation case filed by Ankit Bhardwaj, state executive member of the BJP’s youth wing, in November 2017. The matter was listed for January, and was last heard on March 7. The complainant alleged that on May 10, 2017, the two AAP leaders had falsely named him as the attacker of sacked Delhi Minister Kapil Mishra. According to AAP, after a civil judge dismissed the matter, Bhardwaj appealed in the sessions court.
Ramesh Bidhuri, BJP MP
The MP from South Delhi has filed a criminal defamation case, saying the Delhi CM had falsely claimed in February 2016 that he (Bidhuri) was not being arrested even though serious cases were pending against him. The trial in a Delhi court began in October 2016, and Bidhuri is currently being cross-examined. The next hearing is on March 31.
Vijender Gupta, BJP MLA
Gupta moved the High Court in January 2014, alleging that in the Assembly elections of 2013, Kejriwal and AAP leader Somnath Bharti had exceeded their poll expense limit of Rs 14 lakh, fixed by the Election Commission. Gupta, who in 2015 became one of the only three BJP MLAs to enter the Assembly, had lost the 2013 election to Kejriwal. The case is at the cross-examination stage; the next hearing is on March 22.
Neeraj Saxena, activist
In March 2016, Kejriwal was summoned in a complaint filed by Neeraj Saxena on behalf of the NGO Maulik Bharat Trust. The plea in the Delhi court alleged that Kejriwal’s 2013 election affidavit had incorrect details of his assets and income at the time of nomination. The next date of hearing is March 23, and Kejriwal has been asked to appear personally.
Subhash Chandra, MP
In November 2016, Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra filed a criminal defamation case in a Delhi court against Kejriwal for allegedly levelling false allegations in the wake of demonetisation. AAP had filed a plea in the Delhi High Court asking the case be quashed. In December 2017, the HC issued notice to Chandra for his response. The next date of hearing is March 23.
Coal scam protest
An FIR was filed against Kejriwal, Sisodia and Vishwas for allegedly breaching prohibitory orders while protesting outside the residences of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Congress president Sonia Gandhi in August 2012. AAP has filed a plea to quash the FIR; the next date of hearing is March 31.
Letters for Dikshit
An FIR was filed against Kejriwal, Sisodia and Vishwas for allegedly breaching prohibitory orders during an April 2013 protest, when they delivered 10.5 lakh letters purportedly written by the people of Delhi to then CM Dikshit’s residence. AAP has filed a plea to quash the FIR. The next date of hearing is April 5.
Rail Bhawan protest
An FIR was filed against Kejriwal, Sisodia and Vishwas for breaching prohibitory orders during protests outside Rail Bhawan against the alleged non-cooperation by officers of the Delhi Police, and to demand safety measures for women. Kejriwal was CM then. AAP said it was yet to receive notices in the case, and has filed a plea to quash the FIR. The next hearing is on April 5.