The Delhi High Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on a defamation suit filed by Lieutenant-Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena against AAP and five of its leaders — Sanjay Singh, Atishi, Durgesh Pathak, Saurabh Bharadwaj and Jasmine Shah — for levelling “false” and “derogatory” allegations against him.
Justice Amit Bansal reserved the order on the issue of granting interim relief to Mr. Saxena, who sought direction to AAP and its leaders not to further publish derogatory statements against him and to remove such statements published earlier.
Apart from seeking ₹2.5 crore in damages along with interest, Mr. Saxena also sought directions to Twitter and YouTube to take down tweets, re-tweets, posts, videos, captions, taglines along with pictures of him and his family members, in connection with the allegations.
The controversy erupted when AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak, during a Delhi Assembly debate on August 29, accused Mr. Saxena of corruption involving change of demonetised notes in 2016 during his tenure as the head of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). Alleging a ₹1,400-crore scam, AAP had demanded a CBI probe against Mr. Saxena.
During the hearing, Justice Bansal said, “I can imagine a politician saying things against another politician but not against a constitutional functionary. He (the L-G) is a constitutional authority”.
To this, AAP’s counsel responded, “even constitutional authorities have some history”.
The counsel also said that AAP’s leaders had also accused Mr. Saxena, while being the KVIC head, of violating rules in awarding a contract, to design a Khadi lounge, to his daughter.
AAP’s counsel called it “a statement of fact” and said it hadn’t been denied. Responding to this, Mr. Saxena’s counsel said it was a matter of fact that his daughter had assisted in designing the lounge on a pro bono (without charge) basis without charging a single penny for her services. “When no money was taken, how does it amount to corruption,” the Judge remarked.
The L-G submitted that AAP and its leaders built their “vilification campaign” on the statements of two accused persons of KVIC who have been chargesheeted in the case relating to the exchange of demonetised currency notes.
Senior advocates Mahesh Jethmalani and Maninder Singh, representing Mr. Saxena, argued that the allegations levelled by AAP and its leaders are patently false and defamatory. They alleged that the L-G had taken some action against the political party following which its members retaliated by levelling false allegations against him.
“So, these people have used forged documents to say that the demonetised currency belonged to me. They have made the allegations in press conferences and made hashtags day in and day out. This is a case of ‘ulta chor kotwal ko dante’ [pot calling the kettle black],” Mr. Jethmalani argued.
Senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Sandeep Sethi, representing AAP and its leaders, urged the court to refrain from passing any interim order at this stage.
The L-G had served a legal notice on AAP and five of its leaders, earlier this month, for levelling “false, derogatory and malicious allegations” against him.