Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today denied in the Delhi High Court that he gave any “specific and categorical” instruction to his previous counsel Ram Jethmalani to use certain defamatory words against Union minister Arun Jaitley. Kejriwal was refuting the claim of Jaitley that he had received a copy of a forwarded letter by Jethmalani addressed to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief stating that whatever he had asked him during the cross-examination was based on the instruction of the chief minister.
The day’s deliberation before joint registrar Pankaj Gupta relates to the second defamation case filed by Jaitley after derogatory words were used by Jethmalani, allegedly at Kejriwal’s bidding, during his cross-examination in the first defamation case. The court also imposed Rs 5,000 as cost on Kejriwal for delay in filing response in the second case. This was for the second time that the cost has been imposed on him. The court had imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on Kejriwal on July 26 for the same reason.
The joint registrar asked the chief minister to deposit Rs 5,000 in the ‘Army Welfare Fund Battle Casualties’. Kejriwal, who opposed the second defamation suit against him, informed the joint registrar that on July 20 he had written a letter to Jethmalani “categorically” stating that he had not “instructed” him to use any defamatory words against Jaitley. However, two days later, Jethmalani wrote a letter to Kejriwal stating that he had used the alleged derogatory words under instructions from him.
The cost was imposed after Jaitley’s counsel Manik Dogra informed the court that the chief minister’s written statement to the suit was filed beyond the time limit of two weeks set by the court on July 26. The counsel contended these were delaying tactics by the chief minister. Advocate Rishikesh Kumar, appearing for Kejriwal, urged the court to condone the delay, claiming that the written statement could not be filed due to certain technical objections raised on two occasions by the high court registry.
Taking note of this submission, the registrar condoned the delay on behalf of the chief minister and said the same is “subject to deposit of Rs 5,000 costs”. The court has now fixed the matter for October 12, before which Jaitley was asked to file his response to Kejriwal’s written statement. Kejriwal, in his response filed through advocate Anupam Srivastava, said that there were “no compelling circumstances or any cause or reason” for him to have asked Jethmalani, to use “such expression” against the union minister during his cross-examination.
The high court had on May 23 sought response of Kejriwal on why defamation proceedings should not be initiated against him. Jaitley had filed the second lawsuit after Kejriwal’s then lawyer Jethmalani allegedly “abused” him in open court during proceedings of another defamation suit he had initiated against the AAP chief and five other party functionaries. Seeking dismissal of the second defamation suit against him, Kejriwal said that the Union minister’s suit is an “abuse of process of law” and “is liable to be dismissed with cost as no civil action for damages for slander lies for any statement in pleadings or during the conduct of a suit against a party or a witness in it.”
“It is denied that the words were made with ulterior motives. It is denied that the same are offensive and malicious. It is also denied that statements were made on specific and categorical instruction of the defendant (Kejriwal). “It is denied that these words have caused permanent harm and disrepute to the plaintiff (Jaitley). The plaintiff be put to strict proof of the allegations made,” the reply said. “The statements made during judicial proceedings are even otherwise protected by absolute privilege,” the reply added.
Kejriwal further said that the statement of the senior advocate recorded in the proceedings of evidence on May 17 (which is alleged as the cause of action of the present suit) was beyond “the scope of the knowledge or anticipation of the defendant and was recorded as the request of the plaintiff”. The first Rs 10 crore defamation suit was filed by Jaitley against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders in 2015. The second Rs 10 crore defamation suit was filed on May 22 this year only against the chief minister.
Jaitley, who denied all the allegations of corruption levelled by the AAP leaders in December 2015, had claimed that they had made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), thereby harming his reputation.