The Delhi High Court on Wednesday termed as “indecent, scandalous and abusive” the remarks made against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s former lawyer Ram Jethmalani during cross-examination in a defamation case.
Justice Manmohan asked Kejriwal’s counsel to ensure that during cross-examination “no indecent or scandalous” questions were raised and Jaitley was not abused. Senior advocate Anoop George Chaudhary, Kejriwal’s new counsel in the defamation suit filed by Jaitley against the Aam Aadmi Party leader, accepted that the remarks were “scandalous”.
He assured the court that further cross-examination would be held in a dignified manner and no scandalous questions would be asked.
The cross-examination of Jaitley, scheduled for July 28, has been adjourned for four weeks to allow the new lawyer to go through the documents, said the court.
Jaitley will appear before the court to be examined on August 28.
Justice Manmohan said he had “never seen such scandalous words used in any suit”. “It’s uncalled for. This is not the way to conduct the cross-examination, they have to control themselves.
“You are using words such as crook. Does it fall on free speech? Are you aware that this is an unparliamentary word?” the judge said, asking Kejriwal’s counsel to maintain decorum.
“No person can be subject to such indecent, offensive, scandalous, abusive questions in the garb of cross-examination,” the judge said, adding “this court is of the view that liberty of free speech cannot be used to make unaccounted statements”.
The judge warned that if there is an “iota” of scandalous question used in future cross-examination, he will transfer the case from the Joint Registrar to a bench of the High Court.
Chaudhary told the court that Kejriwal never told Jethmalani to use words like “crook”.
But senior counsel Rajiv Nayar, appearing for Jaitley, insisted on an affidavit from Jethmalani, saying one of them was “lying or making wrong statement”.
“My client (Jaitley) was insulted (during cross-examination), now both of them deny it. In every hearing will I be subjected to humiliation? There has to be some mechanism,” said Nayar, asking that a complaint be made to the Bar Council of India (BCI) against Jethmalani.
The court, however, declined to pass orders to file complaint against Jethmalani to the BCI under Evidence Act for the alleged “scandalous remarks” made by the lawyer without any such instructions by Kejriwal.
The court said Jaitley can file a separate complaint seeking action against Jethmalani.
The court’s order came on an application filed by Jaitley to expedite the recording of evidence in an orderly and fair manner in the Rs 10 crore Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) defamation suit against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders that the Defence Minister filed in 2015.
Kejriwal told the court that Jethmalani was “not instructed” to use objectionable words against Jaitley during the cross-examination.
Jaitley filed the civil defamation suit against Kejriwal and Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpayee, claiming they made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving the DDCA, thereby harming his reputation.
A fresh Rs 10 crore defamation suit was also filed by Jaitley against Kejriwal over his lawyer Jethmalani using the word “crook” during cross-examination of the previous defamation suit.
Jaitley, in the second civil defamation suit against Kejriwal, claimed the objectionable words caused him “permanent harm and disrepute”.