Delhi HC stays trial court order to summon BJP MLA Vijender Gupta in criminal defamation case
The Delhi high court on Wednesday stayed a trial court order summoning BJP MLA Vijender Gupta as an accused in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot.
Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri sought Gahlot’s stand on Gupta’s challenge to the summons, issued to him for allegedly making defamatory statements on purported irregularities in the procurement of 1,000 low-floor buses by the Delhi Transport Corporation.
“In the meantime, the order shall remain stayed,” the judge said, while also seeking the stand of the state in the matter.
Gupta was summoned as an accused by the trial court on October 11 on the transport minister’s complaint and was asked to appear before it on November 16.
In his complaint before the trial court, Gahlot alleged that Gupta “intentionally and for malafide purposes” defamed him and tarnished his reputation to gain political mileage. He claimed that Gupta levelled “defamatory, scandalous, mischievous, false and scurrilous allegations” verbally as well as in writing.
Gahlot also claimed that Gupta made unabated tweets doubting the integrity of the minister in relation to the purchase of the low-floor buses, despite a clean chit being given by a high-powered committee. He said the Delhi government floated a tender for buses and after due process, it was awarded to Tata; but all sorts of allegations were made.
The trial court said there was prima facie evidence to summon Gupta as an accused for the alleged offence of defamation.
Senior lawyer Ajay Burman, appearing for Gupta, argued that his client was “squarely covered” under the exceptions to defamation, as stated under the Indian Penal Code, as the statements were made in discharge of public service as a leader of the opposition.
He also alleged that a criminal defamation complaint was not maintainable before a magisterial court while contending that another single judge of the high court had earlier refused to grant any ex parte interim relief to the minister on his suit against the allegedly defamatory tweets.
Senior advocate Manish Vashisht, appearing for Gahlot, said Gupta’s tweets were “absolutely scandalous” and made in the absence of any “conclusive finding by any judicial body”.
“You are doing dharna outside my house. You are defaming me in front of my family,” Vashisht said, while speaking for his client. The matter will be next heard on March 4, 2022.