Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has been called upon to prove that his claims of Arun Jaitley being unscrupulous during his time as the DDCA chief are true or were made with the public’s interest in mind.
Chief metropolitan magistrate Sumit Dass on Wednesday summoned him and five members of Aam Aadmi Party in a defamation case filed by the Union Minister. They have been asked to appear before the court on seventh of April.
This is the third such case against Kejriwal, second by a member of the BJP party. The CM is also fighting a defamation case filed against him by Nitin Gadkari and another by advocate Amit Sibal, son of Kapil Sibal, the ex-minister of communications and information technology.
Besides the chief minister, the court also summoned five others whom Jaitley accused of defaming him. Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpai, all members of AAP, have been asked to appear before the court.
While summoning the six accused, the court said it found - on face value - enough evidence in Jaitley’s complaint to ask them to answer the allegations.
The court order said, “Reputation of a man is his greatest asset. It takes years to build one’s reputation. No one knows or realises this fact much better than people who hold public office or aspire for the same.”
It noted that “summing up the statements - to call a person as corrupt/dishonest, one who indulges in financial bungling and having embezzled/siphoned off money to the tune of Rs 57 crores, calling him/equating him/drawing parallels with person who is involved in criminal case, casting aspersions about his integrity, are not legitimate acts of criticism but downright and per se defamatory in nature.”
The AAP members must now appear and present a defence to the allegations against them. If convicted, they could be sent to jail for up to two years and could also be fined.
The FM had filed the defamation case in December last year, after the Kejriwal and other members of AAP held a press conference and levelled allegedly baseless allegations that Jaitley had profited from his alleged relationship with a firm called 21st Century Media Private Limited, a sports management firm.
When he deposed before court in January, the Union Minister said he had been defamed by the accuseds’ social media wherein they alleged that during his tenure as head of Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), there were financial bunglings in the cricket body. “The false imputations made by the accused....that money has been siphoned out in the construction of a stadium and the innuendo that I am a beneficiary of the same is per se false and defamatory,” he told court.
Jaitley said after Kejriwal levelled “baseless” allegations against him, the news further appeared on television and in the papers. “A very large number of persons including friends, political colleagues, journalists... who had read/watched these news items... developed serious doubts and contacted me to seek clarifications.”