Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today told the Delhi High Court that Union Minister Arun Jaitley’s second defamation suit against him over the usage of ‘scandalous’ words by his former counsel was based on heresay and thus was inadmissible as evidence for fresh action. Jaitley’s counsel, however, termed as “belated” the chief minister’s denial that he had not instructed his former lawyer Ram Jethmalani to use defamatory words against the BJP leader. Kejriwal made the submission before Justice Manmohan, who is also hearing his separate application urging the court to strike down Jaitley’s response to his defamation suit of Rs 10 crore after the latter’s counsel confirmed that the words against the union minister were used following instructions. The court reserved its order on this application. Kejriwal’s lawyer, senior counsel Anoop George Chaudhari and advocate Anupam Srivastava, told the court that the “averments in the plaint (filed by Jaitley) in regards to the use of defamatory words…said to be uttered, as stated by the senior counsel for the defendant (Kejriwal), are nothing but heresay. “Under the Indian Evidence Act heresay evidence is inadmissible, therefore the plaint is liable be rejected as entirely based upon inadmissible heresay evidence, as disclosed in the plaint,” he added.
Senior counsel Rajiv Nayar and advocate Manik Dogra, appearing for the union minister, contended that the Aam Aadmi Party leader has neither substantiated his claim that he did not instruct his former lawyer to use such words, nor did he initiate any action against Jethmalani for using scandalous words without his permission. Kejriwal also said the objectionable words were used by Jethmalani on his own. The chief minister in his application also said that he was not present in the court on the said date of hearing. “Thus in regard to the use of words… no cause of action arises and thus no cause of action has been disclosed,” the application said.
The court has fixed the application for further hearing on December 14 after the counsel for Jaitley said he does not wish to file a reply to it. Jethmalani, who in September announced his retirement from over seven-decade long career as an advocate, had used the words while cross-examining the Union Minister in a separate Rs 10 crore defamation case filed by the BJP leader against the AAP convenor and five others of the party in 2015. The AAP leaders in December 2015 had levelled charges of corruption against Jaitley in connection with alleged financial irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). Jaitley has denied all the allegations and also claimed that these had harmed his reputation.
In response to Kejriwal’s denial, the BJP leader had termed as an “afterthought” and “a belated attempt” the July 20 letter written by Kejriwal to Jethmalani stating that he had not instructed him to use defamatory words against Jaitley. With regard to Kejriwal’s claim that the “statements made during judicial proceedings are even otherwise protected by absolute privilege”, Jaitley has said no such privilege can be claimed by a person who instructed his lawyer to insult or use defamatory language against a witness. Jaitley has claimed he is entitled to the relief sought by him and the suit be decreed in his favour.