A court in New Delhi on Saturday imposed a fine of Rs 2,500 each on top Aam Aadmi Party leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia for their failure to appear before it in connection with a criminal defamation complaint filed against them by Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's lawyer son Amit Sibal.
Metropolitan Magistrate Sunil Kumar Sharma imposed the cost on Kejriwal and Sisodia while accepting their pleas seeking exemption from personal appearance for the day only.
Kejriwal had sought exemption on the ground that he was in Bangalore for the Lok Sabha election campaigning while Sisodia said he had to rush to Amethi in Uttar Pradesh as AAP leader Kumar Vishwas and other members of the party had sustained injuries after some persons allegedly attacked them there.
The court also released AAP leaders Prashant Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi, who had appeared before it, on an undertaking that they would appear before it on each and every date of hearing. The court has now fixed the matter for April 19.
The court had on July 24 last year summoned Kejriwal, Sisodia, Bhushan and Ilmi on the criminal defamation complaint filed by Amit in which he had alleged that the AAP leaders had said that he had taken advantage of his father's position to represent a telecom company in court cases.
During the hearing, Bhushan told the court that the matter should be fixed for hearing after April 9 as the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the plea filed by Amit on that day.
The apex court on February 7 had issued notices to Kejriwal, Sisodia, Bhushan and Ilmi on the plea filed by Amit and the bench had also stayed the Delhi high court's order of granting exemption to Kejriwal and others from personal appearance before the trial court.
Advocate Mohit Mathur, who appeared for Amit, opposed the contentions of Bhushan and defence counsel Rahul Mehra saying "we cannot keep waiting."
Mathur also opposed the grounds taken by Kejriwal and Sisodia for seeking exemption saying nobody is above the law and they should have appeared before the court and they could have easily adjusted their visits.
Advocate Mehra argued that they were seeking time only till April 9 so that the apex court could decide on the issue and the accused were "not running away".
"Let us be before the Supreme Court on April 9. I am just asking for time till April 9," Mehra said.
After the magistrate started dictating order in the open courtroom, the defence counsel told the court that Bhushan and Ilmi should be released on an undertaking and they would not furnish bail bonds as the AAP party had decided not to furnish it in courts to secure bail.
Countering this, Mathur said furnishing bond was mandate of law and CrPC cannot be amended as per the wish of a party.
"What is the ego of this party that they will not do this (furnish bonds)? Is this the principle that we will not abide by the law?," Mathur said adding law cannot be re-written for this.
The court, after hearing the arguments, ordered that Bhushan and Ilmi be released on an undertaking.
The Delhi high court on January 16 had refused to quash defamation proceedings against AAP leaders but had told trial court to consider their discharge plea.
Challenging the order, Amit had approached the apex court saying the high court cannot confer the power to discharge on a Magistrate in a triable case instituted on a private complaint.
He had also submitted that the high court had granted exemption from personal appearance thought it was not sought by Kejriwal and others.
Image: Aam Aadmi Party leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia