The Supreme Court today asked the Delhi High Court to decide by September 25 the plea of AAP leader Raghav Chadha against a trial court order summoning him as an accused in the criminal defamation case filed by union minister Arun Jaitley. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the parties shall appear before the high court on September 18 with a copy of the apex court’s order and the matter shall be argued on September 19. “We are only inclined to request the single judge of the high court to prepone the date of hearing and finalise the petition filed under section 482 CrPC on or before September 25,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for Chadha, told the apex court that the high court had listed the matter for hearing in October and not stayed the proceedings going on before the trial court. He alleged that he had not sought any adjournment before the high court but it was “put into my mouth that I have sought adjournment for four weeks”. “Videography should be ordered. Arguments cannot be recorded like this. This should not happen. It is very unfair,” Grover said.
Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the respondent, questioned Chadha’s move to approach the apex court against the high court’s order. “If a judge finds that there is no ground and says I will hear it and fixes it for hearing, then where is the ground of appeal against this,” Rohatgi said. Grover, however, raised objection on the arguments by Rohatgi and Luthra saying notice has not been issued on his plea and hence they should not argue.
The apex court on September 7 had agreed to hear Chadha’s plea in which he had alleged that he was made to face criminal defamation case only for retweeting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet against Jaitley. He had moved the apex court against the high court’s July 11 order which had refused to stay the proceedings in the lower court against him in the defamation matter and had posted his plea for hearing in October.
He had said in the plea that he had raised an important question of law before the high court as to whether the trial court could have summoned him without determining if the alleged defamatory statements, which were purpotedly made through Twitter, were covered under the penal provision of defamation under the IPC. He had sought the apex court’s direction to high court to urgently hear the matter and consider the application for stay of proceedings before the trial court.
Kejriwal and other AAP leaders – Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai – are facing a criminal defamation suit after they claimed that Jaitley was allegedly involved in corrupt practices when he was the president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), a post he had held from 2000 to 2013.
Jaitley, who had denied all the allegations levelled by the AAP leaders in December 2015, had also filed a civil defamation suit seeking Rs 10 crore damages from Kejriwal and others, claiming they had made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving DDCA, thereby harming his reputation.