Who’s scared of defamation suits? Not Arvind Kejriwal
New Delhi: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has made it amply clear that he is not scared of the defamation cases, civil and criminal, filed by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley.
History suggests he shouldn’t be either.
Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which won an overwhelming majority in the 2015 Delhi legislative assembly election, is no stranger to defamation suits.
In the first in a series of defamation cases, transport minister Nitin Gadkari last year sued Kejriwal for including Gadkari’s name in a list called “India’s most corrupt” politicians during the run-up to the 2014 general elections. In that case, Kejriwal refused to furnish bail, saying he was not a criminal. Accordingly, he was sent to judicial custody for six days, until he gave his bail bond. The trial has been stayed by the Supreme Court.
Kejriwal also has had criminal defamation cases filed against him by Sheila Dikshit’s ex-political secretary Pawan Khera, lawyer Amit Sibal, who is Kapil Sibal’s son and a lawyer Surender Kumar Sharma.
Kejriwal appealed to the Supreme Court against all these cases, where a bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant stayed the lower court proceedings. These were then clubbed with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy’s case. Swamy had first moved the apex court in 2014 saying that criminal defamation went contrary to the free speech.
Ironically, it was the AAP government which, on 6 May, issued a circular threatening media houses with criminal action if they published defamatory content against Kejriwal and the government. The apex court stayed these proceedings. The government withdrew the notification shortly thereafter.
The Supreme Court is likely to rule on the criminalization of defamation before 17 February, it indicated in November.
It remains to be seen whether that verdict will affect the proceedings in Jaitley’s case before the Patiala House courts.