Delhi chief secretary Naresh Kumar files defamation case against The Wire

Nov 20, 2023 06:27 PM IST

The article has had a cascading effect on social media and that the entire reporting was contrary to record, Kumar said through his lawyers

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar has approached Delhi high court seeking to direct news portal The Wire to take down the defamatory article alleging link between Kumar’s son Karan Chauhan in a case pertaining to enhanced valuation of a land, acquired by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for the road project. Dwarka Expressway

Delhi chief secretary Naresh Kumar (HT)
Delhi chief secretary Naresh Kumar (HT)

The dispute begun when southwest Delhi’s district magistrate Hemant Kumar overturned a 2018 decision of the additional DM of granting 41.52 crore for the 19-acre land in dispute based on a valuation of 53 lakh per acre and instead awarded 353 crore compensation on May 15, 2023, to the two individuals Subhash Chand Kathuria and his brother Vinod Kathuria. The article alleged that one of the beneficiaries of the 19-acre land, Subhash Chand Kathuria was father-in-law of Aman Sarin, promoter of a realty firm, Anantraj Limited, who had close business links with Karan Chauhan.

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During the hearing on Monday before a bench of justice Manoj Kumar Ohri, Kumar appearing through senior advocates Maninder Singh and Rajshekhar Rao submitted that the article has had a cascading effect on social media and that the entire reporting was contrary to the record. “At the fag end of my career, I’ve been (made) the scapegoat of something,” Rao submitted.

Senior counsel Maninder Singh argued that pursuant to the overvaluation coming to light by way of an inspection on May 18, Kumar immediately took cognisance of the entire issue and directed the divisional commissioner Ashwani Kumar to monitor the case on a fortnightly basis and had later asked the directorate of vigilance to inquire into the matter.

“Eight times I had coordinated the entire exercise from May 18 to October 20,” Singh said, adding that it was on Kumar’s behest that the case was referred to CBI, the officer was transferred to Andaman Islands and was later suspended. He also submitted that the DMs award was set aside by the Delhi high court on October 31, 2023.

The case will be next heard on November 21, 2023.

Calling the contents of the article as ex-face misleading and per se defamatory, Kumar in his legal notice sent to the Wire and its reporter Meetu Jain on November 13 by advocate Bani Dikshit had stated that it was he who on his own volition took cognizance of the entire issue of the plot being exorbitantly over-valued, to ensure that there is no wrongful loss to public exchequer.

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“On a bare perusal of the Defamatory Publication, and the allegations and / or insinuations made therein are patently false, baseless and misleading, and entirely divorced from true and correct facts. First and foremost, the attempt at a ‘sensational’ headline of the Defamatory Publication incorrectly portrays a perception of guilt against my Client and would mislead any reader into wrongly believing that my Client is involved in some illegal activity.

Secondly, the contents of the Defamatory Publication contain egregious inaccuracies and misleading information, coupled with a selective quotation of my Client’s statement given to you on your approach and insistence. It is pellucid that you have been reporting misleading news in a manner that is malicious and vindictive, apart from being highly sensationalized, despite the clarifications provided by my Client,” the notice said.

Interestingly, Delhi’s vigilance minister Atishi Marlena had last week recommended the removal of Kumar and the divisional commissioner Ashwani Kumar from their posts after receiving a complaint from the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. While alleging prima facie complicity of Kumar in the land acquisition matter, she in her probe report had stated that the initial inquiry into the excessive compensation hike was not initiated suo moto by Kumar but they were forced to do it after the matter was flagged by NHAI.

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