The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked Delhi Police and Zee News to respond to a plea by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra challenging the summons and framing of charges against her in a defamation case filed by the news channel and its editor.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who was conducting the hearing through video conferencing, issued notice to Delhi Police and Zee Media Corporation Ltd on Moitra's petition.
Moitra has challenged the trial court's orders of September 25, 2019 and January 10 this year by which she was summoned as accused and charges were framed against her in the defamation case, respectively. Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, representing Moitra, also sought a stay on the trial of the case before the subordinate court.
The high court recorded the statement of advocate Vijay Aggarwal, representing the media house, that in the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation, evidence is not being recorded by the lower court so the trial cannot commence on the next date of hearing.
On January 10, the trial court had framed charges against the politician for the alleged offence of criminal defamation under the IPC.
Pahwa along with advocate Adit S Pujari submitted before the high court that no opportunity was given to Moitra by the trial court to seek discharge and to advance her arguments that no case was made out and she was summoned without considering that the remarks were made by her without requisite intention.
The politician said these proceedings were a counterblast to the defamation complaint filed by her against the Zee news editor-in-chief Sudhir Chaudhary.
Advocates Aggarwal, Mudit Jain and Yugant Sharma said Moitra has approached the high court instead of moving the Sessions court and there was a delay in filing the petition. The offence of defamation provides a simple imprisonment which may extent up to two years.
The trial court had on December 17 last year granted bail to the politician on a personal bond of Rs 20,000, after she appeared before it after summons were issued against her. It had earlier sought to know whether there was a possibility of settlement between the parties.
The suggestion was, however, denied by Moitra who said they had a "substantive" case separately going on in another court. The case relates to Moitra's June 25, 2019 speech in Parliament on the 'Seven Signs of Fascism' and a TV show run by the news channel and other subsequent developments.
Zee News has filed the defamation complaint against Moitra for allegedly making statements against the channel to the media. The alleged defamatory statements against the channel were made by the MP while she was speaking to reporters on allegations against her.
Prior to that, Moitra had filed a criminal defamation complaint against Zee News and Chaudhary, in connection with a show aired by it on one of her speeches delivered in Parliament. The court had on November 4 last year summoned the accused in the case filed by the politician.