The Delhi High Court reserved its verdict on Thursday on a defamation suit filed by Lieutenant Governor (LG) Vinai Kumar Saxena against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its leaders, including Sanjay Singh, Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Jasmine Shah and Durgesh Pathak.
The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Amit Bansal heard the arguments by Senior Advocates appearing for the LG and AAP leaders, respectively, and reserved its order.
Representing the LG, Senior Advocates Mahesh Jethmalani and Maninder Singh termed the allegations made by AAP and its leaders as being blatantly false and defamatory.
As per the LG Counsels, the defendants have not been able to show anything to substantiate the allegations and that even the document used by them was non-existent in reality and, therefore, forged.
They accused the AAP and its leaders of defaming the LG by claiming on social media and press conferences that Vinai Kumar Saxena was involved in a scam worth Rs 1400 crore. The Counsels said though the AAP leaders never took any names, it was apparent that they referred to the LG.
The Counsels added that since the allegations were made against a high constitutional functionary, whp could not come out in public and defend himself, they sought an injunction order against the AAP leaders and directions to take down all tweets, posts or videos in reference to the allegations made against the LG.
Appearing for the AAP leaders, Senior Advocates Sandeep Sethi and Rajiv Nayar contended that as the veracity of allegations would be decided at the stage of trial, the court should not pass an interim injunction order at this stage.
They said the allegations were levelled against the LG during his tenure as Chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). Stating that the LG may rubbish it as hearsay, but the fact was that two people had gone on record stating that it happened and they were also arrested.
As per the AAP Counsels, the principles laid down by the courts said that public functionaries must be open to criticism and should be thick-skinned. The lawyers further said that as a political party, it was the duty of AAP to bring all these issues to public notice.
Stating that the LG was not above law, a Counsel representing Bhardwaj said he was not seeking probe against Saxena for something he did as LG, but for his conduct during his tenure at KVIC.
The defamation suit by LG followed the allegations levelled by the AAP Legislators on August 29 in Delhi Assembly, alleging that the KVIC employees were pressurised by Saxena to exchange demonetised currencies.
The allegations further included financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 1400 crore during Saxena’s tenure as KVIC Chairman.
Accusing Saxena of misusing his position to award a contract for the interior design of Khadi lounge in Mumbai to his daughter, AAP had demanded a probe by both CBI and ED into the matter, besides Saxena’s arrest.
This led the LG to send a legal notice to the AAP and its leaders, telling them to direct all its members and people associated with the party, by way of a press conference, to cease and desist from spreading defamatory and unsubstantiated statements against him.
LG Saxena had demanded the AAP leaders to comply with the notice within 48 hours, which they refused to do.