18 Sep 2023 8:21 AM GMT
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajyasabha MP Sanjay Singh have moved the Gujarat High Court challenging the issuance of summons by a Magistrate Court in a defamation complaint filed against them over their comments 'targeting' the Gujarat University seeking educational degree of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The appeal has been filed 4 days after a Sessions Court in...
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajyasabha MP Sanjay Singh have moved the Gujarat High Court challenging the issuance of summons by a Magistrate Court in a defamation complaint filed against them over their comments 'targeting' the Gujarat University seeking educational degree of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The appeal has been filed 4 days after a Sessions Court in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad dismissed a revision application of the duo. The appeal also raises the issue of the complaint having a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech and expression.
It may be noted that the alleged comments were made by Kejriwal at a press conference on April 1, and Singh made the utterances at a second press conference conducted on April 2. Thereafter, the Gujarat University filed a criminal defamation complaint against them before a magistrate court in Ahmedabad.
In the criminal complaint filed by Gujarat University, through its Registrar Dr Piyush M.Patel under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, the alleged statements of Kejriwal and Singh have been referred to, accusing them of making sarcastic and defamatory statements in press conferences and on Twitter handles targeting the university over Modi's degree.
They were initially issued a summons to appear before the court on April 15 and again issued a fresh summons on May 23.
In his appeal, Kejriwal has stated that the alleged defamatory comments were made by him in a press conference wherein he had raised an important issue pertaining to the degree of the Prime Minister of India and that by doing so, he had discharged his duty of awakening the people of India by stating that the great nation India deserves educated and qualified persons to hold the constitutional post including the Prime Minister of India and hence, the said statements can not amount to defamation.
His appeal further avers that a bare perusal of the alleged statements would not attract any ingredient of Section 499 IPC, warranting initiation and continuance of trial against him as he had made simple, innocuous and straightforward statement made during the political discourse with an intention to awaken the people of India.
The appeal strongly argues that neither the alleged act of convening the Press Conference nor the alleged act of seeking the degree of the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India could be classified as a defamatory statement.
He has further contended in his plea that the Court grossly erred in passing the impugned summoning orders as it failed to note that only the person 'aggrieved' has the locus to initiate and institute a defamation case and in the present case, the Gujarat Univeristy, which happens to be an instrumentality of the state, cannot be said to be an aggrieved person.
The appeal adds that a Government institution can not file and maintain a criminal defamation complaint and even if it is not considered as a state, then the complaint can't be maintained as the University is an unidentifiable and Indeterminate body and cannot be considered as a class under Section 499 IPC.
The appeal also submits that no proper enquiry u/S. 202 CrPC was conducted before the Court to show as to how the Respondent is defamed in the estimation of others and that the witnesses produced during the said inquiry were the employees of the Gujarat University itself.
"The present Complaint is not instituted by an aggrieved person, inasmuch as Dr. Piyush M. Patel has not claimed in the present complaint to be the aggrieved person. No specific injury or statement is stated to have been made against him, who is a Public Servant and thus Section 199(2) CrPC is not complied with in the present case. The Complaint is neither filed by the Public Prosecutor nor filed before the Court of Session," the appeal further submits.
Lastly, the appeal contends that since the complaint has been filed against Petitioner as a Chief Minister of NCT of Delhi, hence, it was mandatory to obtain a sanction u/s 197 CrPC and that the summoning order erroneously presumes and records that Gujarat University is Petitioner's opponent.
Kejriwal has moved the HC through Advocate Farrukh Khan.
Background of the matter
A metropolitan court in Ahmedabad had earlier summoned the duo (Kejriwal and Singh) to face trial in the defamation case filed by the Gujarat University over their (Kejriwal & Singh) alleged derogatory statements
Thereafter, they moved the City Civil & Sessions Court Ahmedabad to stay the trial in the case pending the disposal of their revision plea. This plea was rejected last month.
Challenging this order, Kejriwal and Singh moved the HC, wherein they were denied any interim relief. Thereafter, they even failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court and instead, they were asked by the Top Court to raise their grievances before the HC in their pending petition.
On August 29, the Gujarat HC Court directed the Principal Sessions City Civil Court Ahmedabad to transfer the revision plea to a different court and further ordered the Court to decide the matter within 10 days.
The case against Kejriwal and Singh
In the criminal complaint filed by Gujarat University, the following statements have been objected to and have been termed as defamatory:
"अगर डिग्री है और वो सही है तो डिग्री दी क्यों नहीं जा रही है...गुजरात और दिल्ली यूनिवर्सिटी डिग्री क्यों नहीं दे रही हैं? डिग्री इसलिए नहीं दे रहे हैं कि डिग्री हो सकता है फर्जी हो, डिग्री नकली हो...अगर प्रधानमंत्री जी दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय से पढे, गुजरात यूनिवर्सिटी से पढे, तो गुजरात यूनिवर्सिटी को सेलीब्रेट करना चाहिए कि हमारा लड़का जो है देश का प्रधानमंत्री बन गया...वो उनकी डिग्री को छुपने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं...(यूनिवर्सिटी) प्रधानमंत्री की फर्जी डिग्री को सही साबित करने में जुट गई [If degree is there and it is correct then why degree is not being given... Why Gujarat and Delhi University are not giving degree? The degree is not being given because the degree may be fake... If the Prime Minister studied from Delhi University, Gujarat University, then Gujarat University should celebrate that our boy has become the Prime Minister of the country. ...it is trying to hide his degree...[Univerisity] put his all to prove a fake degree (of PM) as right],"
The complaint states that the alleged statement was made right after the Gujarat High Court’s order of quashing and setting aside the 2016 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the Gujarat University to provide “information regarding degrees in the name of Mr Narendra Damodar Modi" to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The Complaint further states that immediately after the Gujarat High Court's order, Kejriwal made defamatory statements against Gujarat University in a press conference despite being aware of the fact that the Prime Minister's degree had been published on the University's website long back.
Notably, the university has also contended in its complaint that CM Kejriwal made the statements in his “personal capacity” and “not affairs of the State”.
In April this year, the additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Jayeshbhai Chovatiya found that prima facie, both Kejriwal and Singh appeared to have targeted the Gujarat University as the words uttered by them were sarcastic and meant to target the Gujarat University's image in the minds of the people.
"It is natural that due to the statements of the accused people who know the credit of Gujarat University and all the people who do not know Gujarat University will develop distrust towards Gujarat University," the Court observed.
The Court also opined that if the political office bearers, instead of fulfilling their duty to their people, do any work directly or indirectly for their personal enmity or selfishness, to harm the opponents or the same person, and if they utter any such words, those words will be considered a violation of the trust placed by the people and the words uttered will be considered personal.
It is in that order that the Court directed their personal presence before the Court by issuing them summons.