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'Notice to Kejriwal is to protect healthy criticism'

October 23, 2012 22:23 IST

Pawan Khera, political secretary to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, sent a legal notice to activist Arvind Kejriwal on Monday. In an interview with Rediff.com's Priyanka, Pawan Khera's lawyer, Mehmood Pracha says that if Kejriwal doesn't do what has been asked from him by October 25, they would file a civil and a criminal court case against him.

A part of the legal notice states that Arvind Kejriwal has used 'filthy and foul language'. What are the exact words that you are objecting to?

"Dalaal (broker).' He (Kejriwal) has said that the chief minister is a 'dalaal' for power companies.

What are the reasons for going to court over its use? How is the use of 'dalaal' legally wrong?

It is not the word. It is also about in what context a word has been used and the message it conveys to the people. It is more important for us to see what impact it will have on people.

He had said that the Delhi chief minister has acted as a dalaal for power companies, and has robbed the aam aadmi to help these companies. This gives an impression that she is acting as broker for power companies so that they get the money from the common man's pocket.

The legal notice also says that baseless allegations have been made. What are these?

This is a baseless allegation. He (Kejriwal) has no scientific reason and proof, and you cannot level allegations against anyone.

Another reason why Khera is sending the legal notice is that Kejriwal has hit at the very root of constructive criticism. And constructive criticism, according to my client is the most important thing in a democratic system.

If you reduce the level of constructive criticism by resorting to your own selfish aims, and then you use derogatory language, unsubstantiated facts and use uncivil or filthy language, then people will have less faith in criticism that is the strength in a democracy.

Khera has sent the notice to protect healthy criticism.

But don't you feel that these words have become very normal in our political conversations?

The use of abuses in a political process does not legitimatise it, and just because so many other people are using it, the use of such words it still non-filthy. Somebody has to take a stand. Khera draws his strengths from the freedom battle. They fought the entire battle in a very decent manner.

The idea is that someone has to arrest this degrading morality. Let us not get used to it. At least an effort has to be made.

But according to a news report, Dikshit had addressed to Kejriwal as 'seasonal frogs'. Isn't that derogatory too?

I am not aware of that. But if he thinks it is derogatory to him, then he should take action.

What kind of public apology is being sought from Kejriwal?

As per the legal notice, he has to retract from his statement, and apologise to the fact that he said it without confirming the facts, because what he has said is untrue. Also, he should apologise for the use of filthy language. And third, he should refrain from making remarks which are untrue or false to his knowledge.

Many other political leaders also use similar language. Why make a case against Kejriwal alone?

The chief minister has already filed two cases against Vijender Gupta (Bharatiya Janata Party member in Delhi). We are not singling him out. We are fighting for a principle. Public discourse and criticism is a very noble thing in a democracy. You cannot misinform people by telling lies.

Criticise us as much as you want, but you cannot use derogatory and filthy language. We have no problem in criticism if it is true and based on facts. People of political parties have a duty towards the common public. They cannot misinform and cheat them.

You are going to file two separate cases- a civil and a criminal defamation lawsuit?

We are going to file two separate cases. Defamation has two aspects to it. It is taken as a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code section 499. Second, it is also a civil case because a person's reputation has been damaged.

What are the things you will hold Kejriwal accountable for in the legal notice?

This is what we have asked for:  If you know something is false, do not project it as truth. And don't use filthy language. Any prudent person will have no objection to it.

You have also said that he is maliciously trying to defame the CM. How will you prove that? Kejriwal will say that he has proof for what he has said against Dikshit.

I can prove that whatever he is saying is untrue. The court will accept our petition based on prima facie evidence.

Has Kejriwal responded to the legal notice yet?

Not yet.
Priyanka