New Delhi: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday appeared before a Delhi court in connection with a criminal defamation complaint filed by him against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, was cross-examined for over two-and-a half hours by the counsel for Kejriwal, who has been permanently exempted from personal appearance before the court in the case.

During the cross-examination, he was asked about his alleged association with Nagpur-based Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd. He told the court that he was not a businessman and has been associated with co-operative initiatives and charitable trusts. “It is incorrect to suggest that I am a businessman. In Maharashtra, lots of co-operative initiatives are there and I have been associated with co-operative institutions, charitable trusts and some of the public limited companies of the farmers and they are all social institutions,” Gadkari told Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha.

The proceedings witnessed heated exchange of words between the advocates appearing for Gadkari and Kejriwal. While Gadkari’s counsel contended that defence lawyer was not asking relevant questions during cross-examination, the advocate representing Kejriwal said queries posed by him were relevant.

“He (Kejriwal’s counsel) can ask me any question. I am ready to give answers…these questions are not relevant to the case. He can ask any questions as per the charges and allegations levelled by him,” Gadkari told the magistrate. The court was also irked with the heated exchange of words among the advocates. “If you (lawyers) want to fight then you can go outside,” the magistrate said.

Gadkari’s cross-examination remained inconclusive and it would continue on May 16. Meanwhile, Kejriwal’s counsel moved an application seeking production of certain documents and the court asked Gadkari’s lawyer to respond to it on April 18. Kejriwal had been summoned as an accused by the court in the defamation complaint in which Gadkari had alleged that he was defamed by the AAP leader who had included his name in the party’s list of “India’s most corrupt”.

During the cross-examination, Kejriwal’s counsel showed some documents relating to Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd to Gadkari, to which the BJP leader said he cannot say anything about it with certainty. As the defence lawyer asked questions relating to Purti Sakhar Karkhana Ltd, Gadkari told the court that “whatever he (Kejriwal’s counsel) is asking, is totally wrong.”

“The case is about Kejriwal’s allegations against me and if he has any proof about it, he should ask me or show me those documents,” he said. Kejriwal was arrested and sent to Tihar Jail under judicial custody on May 21 last year after he had refused to furnish bail bond in the case but gave it within a week and was released.

The court had framed defamation charges against Kejriwal after both the parties told it that they have not reached at any settlement in the case. The court had advised Kejriwal to bury the hatchet and amicably settle the issue with Gadkari. Gadkari had earlier told the court that he was ready to resolve the issue if Kejriwal withdrew his statement. Kejriwal, however, had refused to withdraw his statement and allegations which he had levelled against Gadkari.

Gadkari had earlier also told the court, “I am an honest politician and damage has been caused to my reputation by the defamatory allegation levelled against me by Kejriwal. I don’t have any personal enmity against Kejriwal.” Kejriwal had pleaded not guilty to the offence and had claimed trial.