A "completely baffled" Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed the appeals of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his aide Ashutosh against a single judge order for speedy trial in a defamation suit filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Harishankar dismissed the appeals against a single judge order which directed speedy trial, prohibited use of derogatory words against Jaitley and ordered that no one other than the parties and their counsel be allowed in the court room during the proceedings in the suit.
"We confess, at the outset, that we are completely baffled as to how, and why, the appellant can claim to be aggrieved by the impugned order, dated 26th July 2017, of the learned Single Judge," said the bench and went on to add that "vehement and vociferous arguments" advanced by their counsel "failed entirely in clearing the air. The haze continues; if anything, thicker than ever".
Here is what the division bench said on three points in appeal:
Use of indecent expressions
The court wondered as to how the appeals were filed in the first place when the AAP leaders did not contest anywhere the finding of the single judge that indecent expressions were used while referring to Jaitley and had rather filed a reply saying no such instructions were given to the Senior Counsel to use such expressions.
"Borrowing a leaf, as it were, from Pontius Pilate (the Roman judge who ordered Jesus’ cruxifiction), the appellant sought, in his response to the respondent’s application, to wash his hands of the entire affair by pleading that the said words were used without instruction either by the appellant or his counsel on record, and that the appellant had expressed as much, both orally as well as in writing to the learned Senior Counsel.
"To be fair to learned Senior Counsel, however, it merits mention that no issue was joined, by them, with respect to the finding, in the impugned order of the learned Single Judge, that indecent and scandalous expressions had been employed, by learned Senior Counsel, while referring to the respondent, which was entirely unjustified in the circumstances", the bench said.
Nearly half a century ago, a Division Bench of this Court, inMohinder Singh vs State, ILR (1970) II Delhi 854, echoed the same sentiment, by observing that “the trial judge has a duty not to permit questions which are scandalous, vexatious or even cantankerous, which elicit irrelevant or inadmissible answers, or even those which do not advance the trial but are calculated to hinder or delay its progress”.
"Indeed, the principle that every litigating party in a case, as well as every witness in a trial, civil or criminal, in court, is entitled to be treated with regard and respect, and not subjected to insults, insinuation, and injury, is a proposition so elementary as to obviate the necessity of reference to any further judicial authority in its support," it said.
Expediting the trial
The division bench expressed surprise at challenge to direction for expeditious trial, as it said, "This Court has not come across any earlier case where such a grievance has been voiced”.
"Suffice it to state that the right to a speedy trial is elemental, and an inalienable adjunct to orderly administration of justice, and no exception can ever be taken, to such a direction. This truism applies, with equal force, to civil as well as criminal trials," the bench observed.
Orderly dispensation of justice
On appeal against directions to allow only parties and their counsel during hearing, the division bench said, "The learned Single Judge has, in the present case, taken the call, clearly keeping in mind orderly dispensation of justice, and we find no justification, whatsoever, to question the same."
The bench concluded, by saying, "We are constrained to observe, much against our will, that the present appeals essentially impugn a decision which is clearly aimed solely at ensuring orderly and dignified conducting of the trialproceedings. Such appeals do disservice to the cause of justice in the long run, and we would request counsel (of Kejriwal and Ashutosh) to be more circumspect in raising such challenges. We say no more."