Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and three other members of the party failed to show up before a Delhi court on Saturday.
This prompted a second, sterner warning from Metropolitan Magistrate Sunil Kumar Sharma who said his court would initiate “coercive process” if they did not appear before it on the next date, May 24.
The court made the observation while hearing a criminal defamation complaint filed against them by senior advocate and son of Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal, Amit Sibal.
All four AAP leaders who are accused in the case did not appear before the court on the grounds that they were busy campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections.
During the hearing, Sibal’s counsel pointed out that the AAP members had already been fined for non-appearance by the court on the last date of hearing. They had also filed an undertaking guaranteeing that they would be present on Saturday.
The court told advocate Rahul Mehra, who appeared for Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Prashat Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi, that he should ensure the accused appear before him on the next date of hearing, or ‘coercive measures would be taken.’
It imposed a cost of Rs 2,500 each on Sisodia, Bhushan and Ilmi while allowing their plea seeking exemption from personal appearance for Saturday.
However, Kejriwal’s exemption application was accepted, and no costs were imposed upon him.
The court reasoned that he could not appear before it as he was contesting in the Lok Sabha polls.
“Our leaders respect the law of the land but, this is a difficult stage in the election process. They will appear before the court as and when the circumstances permit,” Naushaad Khan, an active member of AAP and advocate for the party, told HT.
The court had, on March 15, imposed a fine of Rs 2,500 each on Kejriwal and Sisodia for their failure to appear before it.
It had imposed the cost on Kejriwal and Sisodia while accepting their pleas seeking exemption from personal appearance for the day only.
The court had also released Bhushan and Ilmi, who had appeared before it on March 15, on an undertaking that they would appear before it on each and every date of hearing.
Kejriwal, Ilmi, Bhushan and Sisodia were summoned by the court on July 26, 2013 on charges of defamation when Amit Sibal filed a complaint against Kejriwal for stating during a press conference held on May 15 that Vodafone had received favourable treatment from the government due to nepotism arising from the relationship between the telecom company’s counsel Amit and his father Kapil Sibal.