An AAP leader, facing a civil defamation case filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley against him and others including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, today asserted that the senior BJP leader must be open to a “close scrutiny” and “tolerate fair criticism” being a politician. AAP leader Raghav Chadha told Delhi High Court that he had not uttered anything to defame the senior BJP leader and defamation action by Jaitley was a “threat” and continues to be “a fetter on free speech” on a topic which is clearly in public interest.
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The application filed by Chadha, seeking to amend the written statement filed earlier and adding certain preliminary objections to the suit filed against him, came up for hearing before Justice Deepa Sharma. A lawyer appearing on his behalf sought adjournment on the ground that the lead counsel, who would argue the matter, was not available.
Senior advocate Pratibha M Singh and advocate Manik Dogra, representing Jaitley, told the court that trial proceedings in the matter were going on before the Joint Registrar and the Finance Minister had tendered his evidence in support of his suit.
When the court fixed the matter for hearing on May 11, the counsel said it should be heard before March 6, the date fixed by the Joint Registrar for cross-examination of Jaitley. To this, Justice Sharma said, “it does not matter. Let the trial proceedings continue there”.
Jaitley, who has already denied all allegations of financial bungling in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), had filed the suit seeking Rs 10 crore damages against the backdrop of attacks on him by Kejriwal and some other AAP leaders over alleged irregularities in the cricket body of which he was the president for about 13 years till 2013.
On December 6 last year, Jaitley had appeared in the high court and tendered evidence in support of his suit against Kejriwal, Chadha and other AAP leaders – Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh and Deepak Bajpai.
In his application, Chadha has said “the plaintiff (Jaitley) is a politician and is currently holding a government office in the capacity of Finance Minister of India. Therefore, being a politician, the plaintiff must be open to a close scrutiny within the public domain and therefore must tolerate a fair criticism more than any other private individual.”
“The defendant number 5 (Chadha) did not utter any word so as to defame the plaintiff (Jaitley),” the plea said claiming that the suit against him was not “maintainable”.
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