The Delhi high court on Tuesday granted permanent exemption to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from appearing in person before a trial court here in a criminal defamation case filed by Amit Sibal, lawyer son of former Union minister Kapil Sibal.
Justice Mukta Gupta, however, said that if the proceedings in the matter are delayed due to Kejriwal’s absence, the ‘trial court has liberty to modify the order and direct the Aam Aadmi Party leader to appear before it whenever required’.
It also asked the leader to give an undertaking before a trial court that he will have no objection if the matter proceeds in his absence.
The counsel appearing for Kejriwal agreed to the condition imposed by the high court.
Taking note of this, the court said in its order that ‘the petitioner (Kejriwal) undertakes that in case permanent exemption is granted he will not dispute his identity, the witness identity and the evidence recorded in the matter’.
“Affidavit in this regard shall be filed before a trial court in one week from today (Tuesday). Considering his responsibilities and duties and in interest of justice, permanent exemption from personal appearance before a trial court is granted to the petitioner,” the court said.
It also clarified that the counsel duly nominated by the chief minister shall also not seek adjournment on any ground in the matter before a trial court.
The court said that if on any specific date the trial court needs the presence of Kejriwal, it can direct him to appear before it and the chief minister ‘will have to comply’.
The court's order came on Kejriwal’s plea seeking permanent exemption from personal appearance before a trial court in the defamation case filed against him by Amit Sibal.
Senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog, appearing for Kejriwal, submitted that it was not possible for his client to appear on each and every date before a trial court as he, being the chief minister of Delhi, had many other things to look after.
“Notice has been framed in the matter. Cross examination is going on,” the counsel said and asked why his client was required on each and every date.
Kejriwal’s contention was countered by senior advocate Mohit Mathur, appearing for Amit Sibal, saying the CM has been seeking exemption on simple grounds like going for ‘Vipasana’.
He cannot get exemption on such grounds and will have to appear before the trial court in the matter, the counsel said.
He further submitted that they have never opposed Kejriwal’s exemption before a trial court, unless required.
Besides Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, complainant Amit Sibal had also named former AAP members Prashant Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi as accused in the case.
The lower court on September 20, 2014, had put all the four accused on trial for the charge under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.
The accused had pleaded not guilty to the offence and claimed trial.
The court had on July 24, 2014, summoned Kejriwal, Sisodia, Bhushan and Ilmi in the criminal defamation case filed by Amit Sibal, who is a senior lawyer