By Akhileshwari Anand Raj
Ram Jethmalani will no longer represent Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the civil and criminal defamation suits filed against him by Union Minister Arun Jaitley. This comes after the senior counsel used the word “crook” to refer to Jaitley during cross-examination in one such case in the Delhi High Court. Jethmalani held that it was Kejriwal who had instructed him to use such a word but was now lying to the public by denying the same. He, therefore, decided to quit.
Series of defamation charges
The defamation case in question had been filed by Arun Jaitley against Kejriwal and five other Aam Aadmi Party leaders, claiming Rs. 10 crores in damages. The cause of action arose when these AAP leaders accused Jaitley of corruption during his thirteen-year term as the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA). As of now, a criminal case pertaining to the same is pending before the Delhi High Court.
Jaitley had asked Jethmalani if the derogatory term was spoken on the instruction of Kejriwal, to which he had replied in the affirmative. Jaitley proceeded to file another Rs. 10 crore defamation suit against the Delhi CM. Kejriwal was fined Rs. 10,000 by the Joint Registrar of the Delhi High Court for not filing a response to this fresh suit. The court also granted him an extension of two weeks to file his response.
Kejriwal’s defence and the court’s outrage
Kejriwal, in a fresh affidavit filed before the court, held that “neither the answering defendant nor the counsel briefing the senior counsel gave instructions to the learned senior counsel to use the objectionable words.”
Justice Manmohan stated that he had never heard such “scandalous words” in the proceedings of any suit. He held that the liberty of free expression does not include making unwarranted statements and using abusive language under the garb of cross-examination. He further stated that the court was obligated to regulate these proceedings with a heavy hand because of the impending public backlash.
Uncovering the case
After the affidavit submitted in court, Kejriwal also wrote a letter to Jethmalani, the contents of which are unknown. The lawyer responded with another letter, accusing him of having used more offensive language against Jaitley during private discussions of the case. He also asked him to settle his legal fee which would amount to Rs. 2 crores, after the Delhi Government had expressed its inability to pay the entire estimated fee of over Rs. 3.5 crores. However, he later waived off the legal fee, stating that this could be one of his several pro bono cases.
Interestingly, Ram Jethmalani was formerly a part of the BJP. He was expelled from the party in 2013 for his criticism of the leadership, including his revolt against the then BJP President Nitin Gadkari. He then joined the RJD and was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar in 2016.
The AAP has chosen silence over aggression. This is keeping in line with its subdued stance on recent matters such as the Presidential elections and the Doklam standoff. Kejriwal is now represented by Senior Counsel Anoop George Chaudhari in both the previous cases and the fresh suit filed against him.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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