New Delhi: Lawyers representing Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a civil defamation case against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and five senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders on Friday charged the legal team of the latter with deliberately delaying proceedings by repeatedly asking for postponements. The AAP legal team, however, denied the charge, and maintained that as per law, they were well within their rights to seek more time from the court for clarifications and relevant explanation.
It may be recalled that on December 22, 2015, Jaitley, accompanied by some of his cabinet colleagues, members of parliament, members of legislative assemblies and his lawyers, had filed criminal and civil defamation cases in a city court and in the Delhi High Court respectively against Kejriwal and five senior AAP leaders.
The civil defamation suit sought Rs.10 crore as damages from the defendants, who had charged Jaitley with alleged corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA). Jaitley was the DDCA president till December 2013. In an exclusive telecon, Manik Dogra, the counsel on record representing Jaitley, confirmed to ANI that the civil defamation case was listed before the Registrar of the Delhi High Court for the second time today.
Dogra informed that the legal team representing the AAP had sought more time, which in itself was questionable and unexplainable, as the time given to the defendants to give their replies before the court had already expired. “Before entering the court, the defendants informed us that they are filing two fresh applications. They have filed the applications — one was for striking off a paragraph related to a replication, and the other was for dismissal of the suit by Deepak Bajpai. They (the defendants) have been and are adopting every means to delay the process of adjudication of the case,” said Dogra.
“It is fairly obvious that they (the defendants) are scared of the allegations in the plaint and in the replication, and therefore, are looking for ways to delay the adjudication as much and as far as possible,” Dogra told ANI. He reiterated that this was the second time that the AAP has delayed proceedings, and added that he expected the next date of hearing to be fixed in two to four days. Dogra said Mr. Jaitley is being represented by senior lawyers Rajiv Nayyar and Pratibha Singh and himself as the counsel on record.
Responding to Dogra’s charge, H.S. Phoolka, the senior lawyer representing Kejriwal and the five AAP leaders, said, “The Delhi High Court has adjourned the matter till March 15. We have filed two applications -one is on the replication and filed by Ashutosh in which we have said that the plaint (Mr. Jaitley) has come out with a new case, which is not applicable under the law, and the second relates to a demand by Mr. Deepak Bajpai, Defendant Number Six, that the Jaitley suit should be dismissed. There is no question of us delaying proceedings and or adjudication. These applications will come up for hearing next week.”
The AAP had raised allegations over the money spent on the construction of Ferozshah Kotla stadium, and sponsorship deals with a company for use of private boxes. Jaitley had then countered that the AAP leaders had “collectively undertaken a false and malicious defamatory campaign” to “gain political mileage and other unwarranted benefits at the cost of causing irreversible damage” to him and his family, as they were “political opponents of the BJP”.
Jaitley’s legal team has maintained that that 21st Century Media Pvt Ltd is a professional sports management company in which neither their client nor any one of his family members ever had any commercial dealings, commercial interest and shareholding, nor was he ever on the board of the company.
Jaitley’s legal team had in December last year claimed that the defamatory campaign was a “counter blast” to “shift attention” from the CBI’s investigation into Delhi government officials based on a “corruption complaint by a third party”. They said the AAP leaders have caused irreversible damage to Jaitley’s name and credibility, both in his personal and professional capacity.