Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and suspended BJP MP Kirti Azad were on Monday summoned as accused by a city court in a criminal defamation complaint filed by DDCA and its vice president Chetan Chauhan, observing that their statements prima facie adversely affected the reputation of the cricketing body and its officials.
Metropolitan Magistrate Abhilash Malhotra asked Kejriwal and Azad to appear before the court on February 18, saying it was prima facie clear that the former had made such a “serious defamatory remark” that a DDCA official had sought sexual favours from an unnamed woman for her son’s selection in its cricket team, only on the basis of hearsay information received from his friend.
“Under the aegis of DDCA, hundreds of players are playing cricket. Such a drastic statement and that too from the Chief Minister, may have a negative impact and leave an adverse impression in the mind of cricketers, officials and public at large, impacting reputation of the DDCA, its organisational functioning and the transparency of the selection process.
“A person especially holding a constitutional post is reasonably expected to exercise sensitivity and prudence in making discourses and imputations which may have negative impact on the reputation of an institution working in public domain,” the court said.
Chauhan, in his complaint filed through advocate Sangram Patnaik, has claimed that the defamatory statements were made by Kejriwal and Azad, who himself is a member of DDCA, “to remain in public eye and gain political mileage”.
“In an interview to a news channel, Kejriwal had alleged that apart from financial irregularities, there were other major wrong-doings in DDCA, including sex racket.
“Kejriwal had alleged that sexual exchange is sought for by DDCA while making any player play for the team and this amounts to defamation,” the plea alleged, seeking prosecution of Kejriwal and Azad.
The magistrate, in a seven-page order, said it was prima facie clear that such a statement by Kejriwal in an interview to a news channel regarding “sexual favour sought by DDCA official” was made without any discreet inquiry and only on hearsay basis which had adversely affected reputation of the institution, its officials and the selection committee.
Regarding Azad, the court said it was prima facie clear that he had also levelled disparaging allegations against DDCA and its officials alleging selection of players in consideration of sexual favours.
“The allegations have been widely published harming the reputation of DDCA. Accordingly prima facie the ingredients of sections 499 (defamation)/500 (punishment for defamation) of IPC are also attracted against Kirti Azad,” the court said.
“Both the accused persons, i.e. Arvind Kejriwal and Kirti Azad, be summoned for the offence of defamation,” it said.
The magistrate said it was prima facie clear from records that Kejriwal made the defamatory imputation with a knowledge that it may harm the reputation of DDCA and its officials and the statement reflected a negative shade to the public,raising serious concerns over transparency of its selection process.
The court noted that the statement was broadcast not only on the news channel, but also widely published in all national dailies and the internet.
The allegation against Azad was that he endorsed the defamatory allegations made by Kejriwal and claimed he had raised a similar issue in 2007.
To this, the court said defamation includes publication by way of repetition also and one can be held accountable for circulating defamatory rumours.
The court had on January 28 reserved its order on the plea after hearing arguments of the complainant’s counsel on pre-summoning evidence.
The plea alleged that Kejriwal had made “scandalous” remarks against DDCA on television due to which the cricketing body and Chauhan have suffered irreparable loss in the public eye. It has claimed Kejriwal’s “false” statements were immediately endorsed and repeated by Azad.
It denied all allegations levelled by Kejriwal and Azad, sought their prosecution besides damages from them.
“The aforesaid actions of the accused have severely damaged the credibility and reputation of the complainant in the eyes of thousands of cricket lovers, citizens of India as well as internationally.
“It has always been a serious apprehension, which has come true in this case, where provocative statements, irrespective of their falsity, have entered the realm of the internet and social media, and are being republished and forwarded again and again making it next to impossible to squelch the same,” the plea has said.
The court had earlier recorded Chauhan’s statement during pre-summoning evidence in which he said his image as well as that of DDCA’s had been sullied in public eye.