Defamation case: Arvind Kejriwal in roving, fishing enquiry, says Delhi HC

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New Delhi | Published: February 6, 2018 8:06:14 AM

The Delhi High Court today criticised Arvind Kejriwal over the relevance of questions put to Arun Jaitley during his cross-examination in a defamation case, and said the Delhi Chief Minister was engaging in a "roving and fishing enquiry".

beef consumption row in delhi, delhi beef consumption law, delhi high court on beef consumption, aap government on beef consumption, arvind kejriwal on beef consumptionThe court said it was not clear in which direction the cross-examination was proceeding, a concern which was also expressed by the Joint Registrar during Jaitley’s cross-examination on February 2. (PTI)

The Delhi High Court today criticised Arvind Kejriwal over the relevance of questions put to Arun Jaitley during his cross-examination in a defamation case, and said the Delhi Chief Minister was engaging in a “roving and fishing enquiry”. The observation by Justice Manmohan came while declining Kejriwal’s plea to summon the entire minutes of meetings of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) from 1999 to 2013 when Jaitley was at its head. The defamation case was filed by Union Finance Minister Jaitley against the AAP leader. “I think you are doing a roving and fishing enquiry. You need entire minutes of meetings of DDCA, but why?” it asked the counsel for the chief minister and said it cannot understand how the minutes of meetings were relevant to this defamation suit against Kejriwal. The court also questioned the relevance of questions put to the Finance Minister in one of his cross-examinations, on not publishing of a news article related to alleged irregularities in the DDCA in a daily national.

“How does it (questions) relate to the present case, whether the news article was published in one of the private newspapers or not,” it said, adding that “40 questions on that aspect. It is too much”. “There should have been a limit. You should answer to us or your client (Arvind Kejriwal) will be answerable,” the court said to the lawyers of the Delhi Chief Minister. It, however, allowed Kejriwal’s plea calling for two DDCA documents in connection with the defamation suit filed against him by Jaitley. The court also made it clear that the court was allowing Kejriwal’s plea to summon only two documents of February 10, 2003 and April 6, 2003, with which Jaitley can be confronted during his cross-examination. Jaitley’s cross-examination in the suit is going on before a joint registrar who has directed Kejriwal to wind up the cross-examination on February 12 itself.

The court said it was not clear in which direction the cross-examination was proceeding, a concern which was also expressed by the Joint Registrar during Jaitley’s cross-examination on February 2. “You should have known your case before starting. You are building your case during cross-examination,” the court said and asked Kejriwal’s counsel to advise his client about the manner in which he should proceed in the matter. It observed that the chief minister should be “focused” to his case, as he is “not focused”. The court even said that the manner in which he is cross-examining the witness, he should have been imposed with some exemplary cost. “You should restrain yourself from putting questions, which have no relevance,” the court observed.

Advocate Anupam Srivastav, appearing for Kejriwal, maintained that the questions were relevant and he has not put any questions which were out of the context. He also said that records definitely formed basis of the defence set out by him in his written statement to Jaitley’s suit. The chief minister’s counsel was making his submission during the hearing of an appeal filed against the joint registrar’s October 31, 2017 decision to dismiss his plea to summon the minutes of meetings of cricket body between 1999 and 2013 in the suit and other two documents. The instant appeal has been moved by the chief minister in the Rs 10 crore defamation case filed by Jaitley against him and five other Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders — Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai, for accusing the BJP leader of corruption when he was the President of the DDCA.

Jaitley has already denied all the allegations by the AAP leaders in December 2015 and filed a civil defamation suit seeking Rs 10 crore damages from them, claiming they had made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving DDCA, thereby harming his reputation. The AAP convenor is facing another Rs 10 crore defamation suit by Jaitley after his former lawyer, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, used “scandalous words” while cross-examining the BJP leader.

Kejriwal, however, had told the court that he had not instructed Jethmalani to use such words against the minister, even though the senior advocate, who announced his retirement from the profession, had later said the chief minister had asked him to use abusive language.

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