Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and prosecution Monday opposed in the Delhi High Court a plea by BJP MP Manoj Tiwari seeking quashing of summons issued against him in a defamation complaint filed by the AAP leader. Sisodia had filed a defamation complaint against Tiwari and others for allegedly levelling corruption charges against him.
While Tiwari's counsel argued that the summoning order of the trial court was based on legally inadmissible evidence so it was illegal, Sisodia's advocate contended that this was not a stage to see original documents and it has to be seen at the time of trial. The counsel for the State argued that Tiwari and BJP MLA Vijender Gupta, who has also sought setting aside of the trial court order, have not challenged the summoning order saying that what they said was not defamatory and they have maligned Sisodia's reputation.
After hearing arguments extensively, Justice Anu Malhotra reserved the order on the petitions by Tiwari and Gupta and said the verdict will be pronounced on December 17. The high court also asked the trial court to defer the hearing in the matter, which was scheduled for Monday, to a date after December 17. During the hearing, senior advocate Pinky Anand, representing Tiwari, argued that the summoning order of the trial court was based on legally inadmissible evidence so it was illegal.
She further claimed that the trial court's November 28, 2019 order was bad in law and it should be quashed. Anand added that only three witnesses were examined by the trial court and nobody from the media testified.
The complaint itself should have been quashed by the trial court and no summoning order should have been passed This is a fit case where the high court should stay the trial court proceedings, she contended. Senior advocate Sonia Mathur and lawyer Gaurang Kanth, representing Gupta, also sought quashing of the summoning order.
The high court asked whether there was anyone who had heard the telecast of the press conference where the alleged statements were made. To this, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Sisodia, said seeing it live was not the requirement of law and it can be read anywhere at any time.
A person can say yes I read it and I feel the person is defamed. I (Sisodia) have been defamed in the eyes of complainant witness 2. All the issues raised by them (Tiwari and Gupta) are triable issues, he submitted. He added that the original witnesses come at the time of trial and pre-summoning is not a stage to see original documents and the editors of the media houses will be coming as witnesses at the time of the trial.
Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra, representing the State, sought dismissal of the two petitions and said the two BJP leaders cannot keep on saying anything against an honest person and malign him because they have the backing of the union government. What prevented them from going to the Delhi Police or CBI with their claim of corruption. What they did is to malign the individual. They did not go to police agencies because they know they have nothing in their hand, it's a white lie which they are saying, he argued.
Both the BJP leaders have challenged the trial court's November 28, 2019 order summoning them and others as accused in the criminal defamation case filed by Sisodia. Sisodia had filed the complaint against BJP leaders — Members of Parliament Manoj Tiwari, Hans Raj Hans and Pravesh Verma, MLAs Manjinder Singh Sirsa and Vijender Gupta and BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana — for allegedly making corruption charges against him in relation to Delhi government schools' classrooms.
The accused were earlier granted bail after they appeared before the trial court. The AAP leader had filed the complaint under section 200 of CrPC for commission of offences under Section 499 and 500 read with Sections 34 and 35 of the IPC for making false and defamatory statements in print, electronic and social media.
Sisodia had stated that all the allegations made by the BJP leaders jointly and individually were false, defamatory and derogatory with an intention to harm and damage his reputation and goodwill. If convicted, the offence of defamation entails a maximum punishment of two years.