The Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea questioning the decision of a single judge to expedite trial in the defamation suit filed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The court had, last week, pulled up Kejriwal and another AAP leader Ashutosh for filing a plea to set aside the order of the judge in the Rs 10-crore suit.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar had criticised the plea, saying the judge “could not be faulted for ensuring speedy trial” and courts were “duty bound to conduct trial expeditiously” and this was the “first time” the bench was hearing a grievance against a trial being expedited.
Earlier, on July 26, Justice Manmohan had passed an order asking the parties to maintain the dignity of the court and stating that there can be no exchange of scandalous remarks in the name of cross-examination. A limit was also placed on the presence of people in the court as only advocates appearing in the case are to be allowed in the court room.
Following this, Kejriwal and Ashutosh had filed the plea stating that the judge had “erred grievously in holding that the joint registrar is recording evidence under supervision of the court and if a party is subjected to abuse or humiliation during cross-examination, the court could certainly intervene”. The plea stated that the power to record evidence was to be exercised as per rules by the joint registrar, and only the joint registrar had the power to decide any objections. It said, “The… single judge failed to appreciate that the joint registrar is a delegate of the High Court, not of any individual judge.”
The plea filed by Kejriwal also stated that as the joint registrar had disallowed certain questions while cross-examination on May 17, “there was no further cause for the single judge to exercise its power in the manner in which it was exercised…” It further went on to question the judge’s order, limiting lawyers’ presence in the courtroom as it would cause “great inconvenience” to counsels, their associates and the general public.
In the plea, Kejriwal had claimed that the order be set aside as “it was passed without jurisdiction and being a nullity”, while also stating that the judge could have provided two months to Kejriwal’s counsel as there were about 5,000 pages of document on record pertaining to the suit.