Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today told Delhi High Court that “no prejudice” would be caused to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal if the civil and criminal defamation proceedings continued side by side. “No prejudice would be caused to the AAP leaders if both the civil suit before the high court and the criminal proceedings before the trial court go contemporaneously,” the Union Minister’s counsel told Justice P S Teji. Urging the court to dismiss Kejriwal’s plea for stay on criminal proceedings before the trial court, senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra said he and other AAP leaders were trying to derail the proceedings before a trial court which has rightly rejected their request. He further submitted that there was no question of staying the proceedings as civil and criminal cases can go together.
Jaitley has filed a criminal defamation complaint alleging Kejriwal and five AAP leaders–Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai–had defamed him in the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) controversy. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Kejriwal, said their plea was for postponement of hearing till the civil suit pending before the high court was decided and not for stay on the proceedings before it.
“The trial court judge had said that he has no power to stay the proceedings,” Jethmalani said quoting from the trial court’s order and added, “Power to stay can be exercised by postponing the matter also”. He contended that there were two cases–one civil and the other criminal–filed against the AAP leaders on the same allegations and the trial court should have stayed the hearing in the matter, but had declined.
On April 7 the trial court had granted bail to Kejriwal and others after they had appeared before it. Jaitley had on December 21, 2015 filed the criminal defamation case against the AAP leaders and sought their prosecution for offences that entail a punishment of up to two years in jail. Besides the criminal defamation case, Jaitley has also filed a civil defamation suit in the High Court seeking Rs 10 crore in damages from Kejriwal and the five AAP leaders for issuing allegedly false and defamatory statements against him and his family in connection with alleged irregularities in DDCA when he was its president.