11 Aug 2023 7:11 AM GMT
The Gujarat High Court today refused to grant any interim relief to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh in their plea seeking an interim stay on proceedings in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Gujarat University till the disposal of their revision plea (challenging Metropolitan Court’s order issuing summons to them) in a...
The Gujarat High Court today refused to grant any interim relief to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh in their plea seeking an interim stay on proceedings in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Gujarat University till the disposal of their revision plea (challenging Metropolitan Court’s order issuing summons to them) in a sessions court.
A bench of Justice Samir J. Dave passed this order after hearing the arguments of Arvind Kejriwal's Counsel Senior Advocate Mihir Joshi and PP Mitesh Amin.
For context, a metropolitan court in Ahmedabad had earlier summoned the duo (Kejriwal and Singh) for August 11 in the defamation case filed by the Gujarat University over their (Kejriwal & Singh) alleged derogatory statements made in connection with the controversy regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s academic degree.
Earlier, on August 5, the City Civil & Sessions Court Ahmedabad rejected their plea to stay the proceedings in the trial pending the disposal of their revision plea.
Challenging this order, both the AAP leaders have now approached the Gujarat High Court. They have also prayed for the court's direction for an expeditious hearing of the revision plea.
Arguments made before the bench
Senior Advocate Joshi argued that since it is a summons case and in such matters, generally personal appearance is dispensed with and that too, when a Constitutional Functionary is involved. It was further argued that when the Gujarat University/complainant sought time to engage a lawyer (in Kejriwal and Singh's revision plea in the sessions court), they were given the time of 20 days, but when on this ground, we asked the court to defer the matter in the magistrate's court, it was rejected.
He also submitted that the delay is attributable to the complainant (Gujarat University) and not to Kejriwal and hence, his my revision plea in the Sessions Court (challenging the summons issued to Kejriwal and Singh) should not be made to suffer.
He further explained that since he has challenged the order of the Magistrate's court issuing summons to appear in the Court before the Sessions Court, the Sessions Court ought to have stayed the proceedings in the defamation case till the disposal of the revision plea.
However, the bench, referring to the undertaking given by Kejriwal to the Court to appear in the case, said that it was Kejriwal who had undertaken to appear and so, now he shouldn't avoid appearing before the Court.
In response to this, Sr Adv Joshi said that the delay was not attributable to Kejriwal but to the Complainant/Gujarat University and hence, undertaking to appear (through Advocate before the Metropolitan Court) doesn't deprive him of filing a revision plea and in such circumstances, the proceedings ought to have been stayed (by the sessions court).
On the other hand, Public Prosecutor Mitesh Amin submitted that since the duo (Kejriwal and Singh) had assured the Court to remain present before the Metropolitan Magistrate by filing an undertaking, therefore, they must honour their undertaking.
Against the backdrop of these submissions, the Court issued notice to the Gujarat University and denied any interim relief to Kejriwal and Singh.
The background of the case
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.
The alleged statement is as follows:
"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]," is the statements that have been attributed to Kejriwal by the University in its complaint."
The complaint states that the alleged statement was made right after the Gujarat High Court order 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 has been published on the University's website long back.
Importantly, the university has also put up a contention 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.
In is in that order that the Court directed for their personal presence before the Court.