Delhi HC to issue ex-parte order in defamation case

Updated on Aug 30, 2021 10:18 PM IST

The court was informed that although the issue was discussed in the Delhi assembly, and Gahlot replied to the debate in the House, Gupta continued to make wrong statements

Transport minister of Delhi Kailash Gahlot during a press conference at Delhi Secretariat in New Delhi.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
Transport minister of Delhi Kailash Gahlot during a press conference at Delhi Secretariat in New Delhi.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)
By, New Delhi

The Delhi high court on Friday said it will pronounce ex-parte (n the application of one party alone) interim order on state transport minister Kailash Gahlot’s civil defamation plea against BJP MLA Vijender Gupta for the latter’s social media posts, alleging irregularities in procurement of 1,000 low-floor buses by the Delhi Transport Corporation.

“None appear for the defendants. We will pass order in this,” said Justice Asha Menon after hearing the arguments by Gahlot’s counsel. In his petition, Gahlot has sought 5 crore as damages from the BJP MLA for allegedly making scandalous statements relating to irregularities in buses deal.

Senior counsel Rajiv Nayar, who represented Gahlot, said Gupta, a political rival, has posted “unabated tweets” doubting the integrity of the minister in relation to the purchase of the low-floor buses, despite a clean-chit by a high-powered committee.

“Delhi government floated a tender for buses. After due process, it was awarded to Tata (but) all sorts of allegations were made. A high-powered committee gave a report that everything was in order,” Nayar submitted.

“Despite the report, we have unabated tweets (calling) me to be a person of doubtful integrity,” he said on behalf of Gahlot.

The court was informed that although the issue was discussed in the Delhi assembly, and Gahlot replied to the debate in the House, Gupta continued to make wrong statements.

“You are a responsible MLA. (it was) raised on the floor of the House and I answered it. I beseech my lady to pass an interim order of protection,” said the senior counsel.

In his civil defamation suit, Gahlot has also sought removal of the alleged defamatory content from social media.

The Union government has recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the purchase of 1,000 air-conditioned low-floor buses by the Delhi government, and a maintenance contract for them. On August 16, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) informed Delhi’s chief secretary Vijay Kumar Dev about the CBI probe. The ministry’s note, said the MHA, after examining the report submitted by a three-member panel appointed by lieutenant governor Anil Baijal, has asked CBI to look into the matter.

On August 20, Gupta tweeted about the CBI inquiry. “CBI investigation started in DTC bus purchase scam. Dismiss transport minister Kailash Gahlot and arrest him. The Kejriwal government has tried its best to suppress the corruption of 5000 crore. Why did the Aam Aadmi Party leaders remain silent in the bus purchase scam?”, he tweeted. He posted the same on his Facebook account.

Over the next three days, his social media timeline shows, he posted similar allegations naming CM Arvind Kejriwal and deputy CM Manish Sisodia.

Responding to Gahlot’s petition, Gupta on Thursday said he was talking about the findings of an LG-appointed panel on the bus purchase controversy. “It is clear that Gahlot and the Aam Aadmi Party government is not being able to handle the pressure after their scam got exposed. The LG set up a fact-finding committee on the matter and I have only posted about findings of the committee. There is nothing slanderous or malicious in it.”

The LG-appointed panel gave a clean chit to the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) in the tendering and procurement of the buses, although it found some “procedural lapses” arising out of “a bona fide decision making”.

“The tendering process of purchase of buses warrants no interference and suffers from no major infirmity... The committee, prima facie, did not come across any material to impute criminal misconduct attributable to any public official,” the report said.

It further said, “There were only procedural lapses apparently arising out of a bona fide decision-making process. However, a greater effort for understanding the market and a higher degree of due diligence in assessing reasonableness of bids was required compared to what seems to have been demonstrated.”

Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this article, Gupta was inadvertently quoted as citing a BJP panel while he was citing the findings of a panel appointed by the LG. The error is regretted.

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