Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Another Long Day of Questioning For Arun Jaitley in Kejriwal Defamation Case

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani asked Arun Jaitley a number of tough questions in court, including why he was singling out Arvind Kejriwal. Arun Jaitley. Credit: PTI
Arun Jaitley. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani on Tuesday quizzed Union finance minister Arun Jaitley about why he chose to file a defamation case against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and not others who have often passed comments against him in the past. 

He was cross-examining Jaitley for the second consecutive day at the Delhi high court in connection with the defamation case filed by the latter against Kejriwal and five other Aam Aadmi Party leaders.

Former law minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Jethmalani, who had posed 52 questions to Jaitley on Monday, kept up the momentum of questioning at the packed courtroom on Tuesday as well. At the outset, he asked the finance minister what made him sue the Delhi chief minister and not the many others who have levelled serious allegations against him in the past.

Jethmalani wondered why a case was filed against Kejriwal when he had only repeated a tweet of social activist and researcher Madhu Kishwar. To this, Jaitley said that several people make irresponsible remarks, “but when a chief minister endorses them, it becomes a grave and serious offence”.

He also charged that “Mr Kejriwal has committed a serious act of libel and malicious also, by alleging that my wife and daughter are recipients, are linked to fake companies… (it is) not only false but taking public discourse to a very low level.”

Jethmalani then also questioned Jaitley on whether the prime minister knew that he was going to sue the Delhi chief minister. However, Jaitley did not give a direct reply to this, like many other questions.

Since the defamation case pertained to allegations levelled by the AAP leaders that Jaitley was involved in financial irregularities during his 13-year stint as president of Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), which ended in 2013, Jethmalani also asked him if there was personal enmity between him and former cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi, who had made several allegations of corruption against him.

To this, Jaitley responded by saying, “I have no personal enmity with him. I do remember that he once contested the DDCA president post and lost it. He also campaigned against me actively in Lok Sabha elections.” At this, Jethmalani quickly asked him, “So this was the first time you were putting your great reputation at test in a democracy?” The question was linked to both Jaitley contesting and losing a Lok Sabha election for the first time.

Jaitley was, however, responded that election results were impacted by “several factors in the constituency and (were) not merely a test of a candidate’s reputation.”

He tried to reason by dragging Kejriwal in saying, “Considering that (Mr Kejriwal) lost the same Lok Sabha election in 2014 by 3.5 lakh votes…”, but was stopped in the tracks by Jethmalani who said, “You take my advice, don’t get into irrelevant matters and only answer what I asked.”

During the proceedings, which lasted nearly two hours in the packed court room of joint registrar Amit Kumar, a variety of questions including on the allegations made against him by veteran cricketer Bedi were put to the finance minister.

Jethmalani then questioned Jaitley on the letter written by Bedi alleging financial irregularities in the DDCA. Jaitley’s response was that the letter was written in 2015, two years after he had left the post of president of the DDCA.

And when Jethmalani showed him the letter and asked if he agreed with its contents, Jaitley went through the same and then said, “I strongly deny the contents of this letter in so far it pertains to me… To the best of my knowledge, the contents of the letter are untrue in so far as it relates to my tenure in DDCA.”

Jaitley, who was represented in court by senior advocates Rajiv Nayar, Sandeep Sethi and Pratibha M. Singh, directly answered most of Jethmalani’s probing questions. However, as on Monday, when 11 of the questions were disallowed by the court, even on Tuesday he decided to stay clear of a few of them.

The cross-examination will now resume on March 15 and is also likely to take place on March 17.-The Wire

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