The Delhi High Court on Wednesday summoned the trial court records of a criminal defamation case filed against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia. Justice I S Mehta called for the case records while hearing a plea by the two AAP leaders challenging a trial court order summoning them as accused in a defamation complaint filed against them by an advocate.
The two leaders, along with Yogendra Yadav, were put on trial last month by the lower court which is slated to frame defamation charges against them on Thursday in the case.
The high court, which listed the matter for further hearing on December 20, also observed that the complainant advocate does not have any direct evidence in the case.
It observed that the magistrate should have first satisfied in himself whether a defamation case was made out.
Senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Kejriwal and Sisodia, argued that there was no direct evidence against them and the complainant’s entire case was based on a press release issued by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and some news articles.
“This provision (defamation) has become a joke and (there is a) need to control this,” she said.
She argued that the magistrate should not have entertained the complaint filed by advocate Surender Sharma as he had gone to court only with documents of AAP press release and newspaper clippings and that he has “not come to the court with clean hands”.
She said Sharma was aggrieved by headlines in the media and had not made them an accused, while the AAP leaders had no role in it.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the two AAP leaders, who sought quashing of the criminal defamation complaint filed by the advocate.
Besides Kejriwal and Sisodia, the complainant has also named Yogendra Yadav in his complaint.
Yadav was a member of the National Executive of the AAP until 2015 when he was expelled for alleged anti-party activities. Later, he floated his own party Swaraj India.
Sharma had alleged that in 2013, he was approached by AAP volunteers who had asked him to contest the Delhi assembly elections on a party ticket, saying Kejriwal was pleased with his social services.
He filled up the application form to contest the polls after being told by Sisodia and Yadav that AAP’s Political Affairs Committee had decided to give him the ticket. However, it was later denied to him.
On October 14, 2013, the complainant claimed, articles in leading newspapers carried “defamatory, unlawful and derogatory words used by the accused persons” which, he said, had lowered his reputation in the Bar and the society.
Opposing the complaint, the AAP leaders submitted that cancellation or allotment of an election ticket is the prerogative of the party.
“Party had asked him if any cases were pending against him, to which Sharma had said nil. Later it was found that several case were pending against him and he had concealed this information.
“Kejriwal did not issue any press release against Sharma. The party had issued the press release. So no defamation case made out against Kejriwal,” the counsel for the two submitted.
The trial court, which had sought their presence before it in the matter, had granted bail to Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav after they had appeared before it.
The summonses were issued on the complaint for the alleged offences of defamation and common intention under the IPC, with the trial court saying there was prima facie material to summon the accused.