Can’t bar Mahua Moitra from defending herself in public, Delhi High Court tells Dehadrai

During the hearing, the Delhi High Court told Jai Anant Dehadrai, “If you put the allegations in the public domain, she has every right to defend herself. Except that she cannot make any objectively false statements.”

Updated - April 08, 2024 10:51 pm IST

Published - April 08, 2024 10:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Trinamool Congress candidate Mahua Moitra campaigns for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections at Krishnanagar in West Bengal’s Nadia district

Trinamool Congress candidate Mahua Moitra campaigns for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections at Krishnanagar in West Bengal’s Nadia district | Photo Credit: PTI

The Delhi High Court on April 8 said Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra cannot be barred from defending herself against allegations made by an estranged friend in public domain as long as her statements are not objectively false.

The court made the oral observation while hearing lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai’s plea seeking an interim order to bar the expelled Lok Sabha MP from making “defamatory” statements against him.

Mr. Dehadrai has filed a lawsuit against Ms. Moitra seeking damages of ₹2 crore for making allegedly defamatory statements against him in the backdrop of the cash-for-query row. Ms. Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha over cash-for-query allegations on December 8 last year.

During the hearing, the court told Mr. Dehadrai, “If you put the allegations in the public domain, she has every right to defend herself. Except that she cannot make any objectively false statements.”

“If both the parties say we don’t wish to have this battle in public domain, then it is one thing. (But) If you are going to make a public comment, then she has to have the space to defend herself,” the judge said.

The judge also questioned Mr. Dehadrai’s lawyer about a statement he gave to the media after the last hearing.

“Mr. (Raghav) Awasthi, you will also advise your client to be very careful. If he is going to be a plaintiff in my suit... equities will be balanced in granting an injunction. It is because you are making statements against her in the public domain, it requires her to be given scope to defend. Did you make any statement to press after the last hearing,” the court asked.

“If he is going to continue, even after filing the suit, in public domain then I will have to give that person the room to defend herself,” the court added.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Dehadrai said after he lodged a complaint with the CBI with respect to Ms. Moitra allegedly receiving illegal gratification for unauthorisedly providing her Lok Sabha login credentials to a third party, she “embarked on a ceaseless campaign of slander and abuse” to disseminate “false, abusive, and defamatory statements” against him.

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