Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal secured bail from an Amritsar court where he appeared on Friday in a defamation case filed by Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
The political undertones of the case were evident outside the court house where members of Majithia’s Akali Dal amassed in a show of strength. The sloganeering crowds forced Kejriwal to be brought into the courtroom through a backdoor. Supporters of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is seeking to end a decade of Akali-BJP rule in state elections next year, were stopped a kilometre from the judicial complex.
Majithia took Kejriwal to court in May for linking him to the drugs trade in the state.
“The court has granted bail to Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh and set the next hearing for October 15,” said senior lawyer and AAP leader HS Phoolka. “(Co-accused) Ashish Khetan did not appear today but he will be here at next hearing.”
The war of words between the two sides continued on Friday.
“I want to say to Majithia that Majithia sahib we are not going to be scared with these FIRs. Only six months are left in Akali’s regime. If Majithia has the courage, he should get me arrested in six months. Otherwise after six months, I will arrest Majithia,” Kejriwal said before his court appearance.
“The people of Punjab will avenge each fake FIR registered from Majithia and Badals. Only six months are left and after six months, we will create a new Punjab.”
Hitting back at Kejriwal, Majithia, who was accompanied by state ministers and MLAs when he appeared in the court, said the AAP leader had got caught in his own web of “lies and deceit”.
“Kejriwal will not escape the clutches of law by getting bail in the case. It is a matter of ‘aaj bail kal jail’ for this arrogant leader,” Majithia said, adding, “He may run but he cannot escape the noose of justice”.
Supporters of both parties, including some who had gathered for hours in anticipation, carried placards berating each other.
“Punjab di Jawani nu badnam karoge taan rokange, bani da niradar karoge te thokange (If you defame Punjab’s youth, we’ll stop you, if you disrespect Sikh scripture, we’ll thrash you,” threatened one Akali placard.
The AAP banners played up Kejriwal’s statement: “Mein ik vaar nahi hazaar vaar kahanga, Majithia chitte da taskar hai (I’ll say it not once but a thousand times, Majithia is a drug smuggler).”