Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday told Delhi High Court that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders had launched a “calculated” defamatory campaign against him and his family with “ulterior motives” to get political mileage.
Jaitley said the right to freedom of speech and expression was “not absolute” and it “did not extend a licence to anyone to defame any other citizen having fundamental rights under the Constitution”. He made the submission in response to written statements filed by Kejriwal, Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai on a civil defamation suit filed against them by him.
In his response, Jaitley has contended that the “defendants have, individually and collectively, in a calculated manner launched a per se defamatory campaign against plaintiff (Jaitley) and his family members for gaining political mileage and ulterior motives”. Jaitley has sought Rs 10 crore in damages from them for issuing allegedly false and defamatory statements against him and his family in connection with alleged irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) when he was its President.
Kejriwal and the others have claimed that the suit was “a classic instance of political vendetta” with a view to “harassing” them and curbing their right to free speech. The Delhi CM and others also moved an oral plea today, through senior advocate H S Phoolka, seeking time to file more documents in support of the statements made by them.
They have also filed an application alleging that Jaitley has been raising additional pleas in his response and sought that the pleadings so far be struck off. The pleas were opposed by senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Pratibha M Singh, appearing for Jaitley, who contended that no more time be given as the defendants (Kejriwal and others) were expected to file all documents by today.
They also said that the application for striking off the pleadings has not yet come on record. However, Joint Registrar Kovai Venugopal, who is hearing the matter, granted Kejriwal and others three weeks time as a “last opportunity” in the “interest of justice” to file the documents and listed the matter on March 15.
Meanwhile, AAP leader Deepak Bajpai has moved an application contending that Jaitley in his defamation suit has not made any specific averments against him and thus, he should be removed as a defendant.