Describing allegations levelled by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders against Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as “not only insulting but jeeringly taunting and provocative”, a Delhi court Wednesday summoned them as accused in a criminal defamation case filed by Jaitley.
Directing Kejriwal and AAP leaders Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Kumar Vishwas, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpai to appear before him on April 7, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Sumit Dass said “freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute right” but “one that is hedged with reasonable restrictions, with the law of defamation being the primary one”.
“The language of public discourse ought to be within the confines of decency. If it transgresses those limits and becomes insulting, offensive and laced with innuendos, same may amount to defamation and become actionable at the end of the person aggrieved,” CMM Dass said.
Jaitley had moved court against the AAP leaders, complaining that they had made defamatory statements and targeted him for alleged corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
After the summons to the AAP leaders, advocate Manoj Taneja, counsel for Jaitley, told The Indian Express: “We respect the court’s order. The law will take its own course in the case.”
The CMM said: “Reputation of a man is his greatest asset. It takes years to build one’s reputation. No one knows or realises this fact much better than people who hold public office or aspire for the same… The allegations are not only insulting but jeeringly taunting and provocative. I have no hesitation to hold that the allegations levelled by the accused are derogatory in nature and amount to slander and libel.”
“…to call a person as corrupt, one who indulges in financial bungling and having siphoned off money to the tune of Rs 57 crore, drawing parallels with persons who are involved in criminal case, casting aspersions about his integrity, are not legitimate acts of criticism, but downright and per se defamatory in nature,” he said.
Referring to statements in the media, tweets and Facebook posts, the CMM said statements made by the accused “have exposed the complainant to ridicule, hatred and contempt amongst the right thinking members of society and lowered his reputation”.
“…defamatory allegations, as levelled on the Facebook post and print media, were intended to be read/shared by maximum number of persons, the allegations resonating through social media by tweets and re-tweets, all point to a synchronized pattern, in quick succession of time and which also probablise the existence of common intention,” he said.
The court said that “reading” statements made by the accused “as a whole” shows a “well orchestrated” campaign, and that all accused “appear to have acted in unison”.