Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani on Monday asked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley if he intended to bring in Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his “character witness”.
“Since you are a minister of the cabinet, the best character witness for you should be the Prime Minister himself. Do you intend to examine him,” asked Jethmalani, appearing for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, while referring to the loss of reputation Jaitley had suffered.
The Joint Registrar (JR) Deepali Sharma, however, disallowed the question as Jaitley’s list of witnesses was already on record.
The JR also disallowed a question posed by Jethmalani if Jaitley had filed the defamation suit “after consulting the Prime Minister”. The court said the question was “irrelevant to the issue in the matter”.
Jaitley was being cross-examined by Kejriwal’s counsel and senior advocate Jethmalani in connection with the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) defamation case filed by the Union Minister against Kejriwal and five other Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders.
During the hearing, Jethmalani put forward various queries on funding of Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
Responding to Jethmalani’s queries, Jaitley said DDCA received no firm proposal from the government in 2003 for funding the entire construction cost of the stadium if it was named after Syama Prasad Mookerjee, and the association decided to build the stadium on the basis of resources it mobilises on its own.
Syama Prasad Mookerjee served as Minister for Industry and Supply in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. After quiting the Indian National Congress, he founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951.
“A self funding stadium is in the larger interest of the sports bodies,” Jaitley said adding that Ferozshah Kotla became the first stadium along with Mohali to be constructed on this basis and subsequently many stadia across the country on this model came up.
Jaitley said another oral proposal on behalf of Dhirubhai Ambani to fund Rs 22 crore to the construction of the stadium provided his name was put was not accepted after due consideration.
During the cross-examination, Jethmalani also made the allegation that Rs 57 crore has been misappropriated and shown as expenses.
Jaitley replied that the monies were spent on the creation of a sports infrastructure and assets.
He said: “The assets which have been created by this expenditure factually exist at the site and are duly reflected in the audited accounts.”
In December 2015, Jaitley filed a civil defamation case against Kejriwal and AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpayee, claiming that they made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving DDCA, thereby harming his reputation. Jaitley has sought Rs 10 crore in damages from Kejriwal and other AAP leader.
He had claimed that the AAP leaders attacked him over alleged irregularities and financial bungling in Delhi’s cricket association, of which he was the President for about 13 years.
The cross-examination would continue on May 17.