Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday rubbished in Delhi High Court the claim of Arvind Kejriwal that he has spared Congress leaders and only targeted him in a defamation suit, even though similar allegations relating to the irregularities in the DDCA were made by both parties. Jaitley, who holds the twin portfolios of Finance and Defence, said a person accused of malicious falsehood and defamation cannot claim any dilution in his guilt on the ground that other offenders have been spared.
The senior BJP leader, appearing before Joint Registrar Pankaj Gupta, objected to the Delhi Chief Minister’s question and said it is for him to assess as to which statement made by which person had caused significant damage to his reputation. His response came after senior counsel Anoop George Chaudhari and advocate Anupam Srivastav, appearing for Kejriwal, put to him that though Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken had made allegations of irregularities against him at a press conference in December 2015, the union minister chose to sue only the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief.
Jaitley, 64 , was present in the court for the fifth round of cross-examination in a civil defamation suit of Rs 10 crore filed by him against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders. During the cross-examination which went on for about two hours, Kejriwal’s counsel claimed “because there was truth in the allegations” made by the Congress leaders, the union minister did not initiate any legal proceedings against them.
Jaitley replied in negative and said, “The truth or the falsehood of the allegations can be determined in the present proceedings against the present defendants (Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders)”. He even shot down Kejriwal’s counsel’s question that he chose to sue the Chief Minister because of political malice in order to settle political scores, as BJP had got decimated in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections winning only 3 of the 70 seats.
“It is incorrect. I have sued the defendants because they made allegations of personal integrity against me and my family members. I could not overlook these allegation,” the Jaitley said. He even denied the Chief Minister’s counsel’s suggestion that he was aware of a press conference held by BJP MP Kirti Azad, now expelled from the party, in which he had also made personal allegations against Jaitley in connection with DDCA.
“Unless I see the specific statement, I cannot make any general comment. He, however, in the past has been critical of me,” the union minister said and denied that Kirti Azad was suspended because he had levelled allegations against Jaitley. Jaitley was shot 34 questions by the AAP chief in which he was also asked whether it was correct the Congress leaders had demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the irregularities and sought his resignation during a press conference.
He, however, claimed to have no personal knowledge about this press conference. He said Kejriwal and others had “individually and collectively” made a series of false and defamatory statements against him which led many to believe that he might have committed the wrong.
His cross-examination remained inconclusive and will resume tomorrow. Jaitley was last cross-examined by the Kejriwal’s counsel on May 17. The proceedings were then adjourned due to heated exchanges between their counsel and those of the union minister over usage of abusive words against the latter.
This had led Jaitley to file a second Rs 10 crore defamation suit against Kejriwal, who had reportedly removed his previous senior counsel and engaged the new lawyer. Jaitley had filed the first civil defamation suit seeking Rs 10 crore damages from Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders — Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai — for accusing him of financial irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) of which he was the President from 2000 to 2013.