The Supreme Court today dismissed AAP leader Deepak Bajpai’s plea challenging a trial court order summoning him in a criminal defamation case filed against him by Union minister Arun Jaitley. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said there was no merit in the petition filed by Bajpai and it has already rejected similar plea by AAP leader Raghav Chadha. “Having heard counsel for the parties, we find no merit in the special leave petitions and the same are accordingly dismissed,” the bench, also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said. Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for Bajpai, said the trial court did not conduct the enquiry mandated under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) before issuing the summons against the AAP leader who was living outside the territorial jurisdiction of the lower court.
He also said that Bajpai was living in Noida, Uttar Pradesh and an enquiry was needed before issuing the summons. Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Jaitley, produced the ‘vakalatnama’ (power of attorney) of Bajpai submitted in the lower court and said that it contained the address of AAP’s Delhi office as his address. Bajpai had approached the apex court against the Delhi High Court order which dismissed his plea saying that the AAP leader has failed to explain the delay of 458 days in filing the revision petition and his plea for condonation of this delay “lacks justifiable and bonafide grounds”. The AAP leader along with others was put on trial in the defamation case filed by Jaitley against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders in the controversy surrounding the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
Bajpai had challenged the lower court’s separate orders summoning and framing notice against him for the alleged offence of defamation. He had also challenged another order by which his application seeking to be heard on the point of notice was also rejected. The high court, in its 18-page order, had said Bajpai had initially not challenged the trial court orders of March 9, 2016, January 30 and March 25. He had later challenged them just to avail a fresh process under the garb of his application under the Limitation Act which “factually is misuse of process of law”. The court had noted in its order that while Bajpai had received certified copies of documents in the trial court on April 25 this year, he claimed in his application for condonation of delay that he had got the copies in June. Bajpai’s contention that he was not heard by the trial court before framing of notice against him was opposed by Jaitley’s counsel who had submitted that in a summons case, there was no concept of hearing an accused at the stage of framing of notice or before that.
Besides Kejriwal and Bajpai, the other AAP leaders accused in the case are Ashutosh, Kumar Vishwas, Sanjay Singh and Raghav Chadha. Jaitley had filed the complaint alleging that the accused had defamed him in a controversy regarding DDCA which he headed for over a decade. Jaitley was the DDCA President from December 1999 to December 2013. On December 21, 2015, he had filed the criminal defamation case against them and sought their prosecution for offences that entail a punishment of up to two years in jail. A civil defamation suit was also filed by Jaitley before the Delhi High Court in the matter seeking Rs 10 crore as damages.