“My submission is that Jaitley is a man with absolutely no reputation, and therefore it cannot be harmed.”
-- Ram Jethamalani
Sparks flew during a charged-up hearing in the Delhi high court on Wednesday and Union minister Arun Jaitley lost his cool when Ram Jethmalani, counsel for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, used ‘crook’ to describe him.
Jaitley, 64 , was in the court for the fourth round of cross-examination by Jethmalani, a 93-year-old veteran lawyer, in his defamation case against the Aam Aadmi Party chief but the proceedings ended abruptly after an intense verbal duel broke out between the once close legal associates. The proceedings lasted barely 45 minutes.
The recording of Jaitley’s statement in a civil defamation suit of Rs 10 crore filed by him against Kejriwal and other AAP functionaries could not continue as the finance
minister objected to the use of an abusive word hurled at him by Jethmalani.
Jethmalani, who appeared before Joint Registrar Deepali Sharma, lost his cool and asked Jethmalani whether the word was used as per instructions from Kejriwal.
“If this is so, I would aggravate the charges against the defendant (Kejriwal),” said an upset Jaitley, who is usually calm, adding there was a limit to personal malice.
Jaitley, who is holding twin portfolios of finance and defence, also said that the senior counsel should clarify if he has made such comment in his personal capacity.
Jethmalani replied back, saying the said word has been used by him on instructions from his client (Kejriwal).
However, Anupam Srivastav, advocate on record for Kejriwal since the beginning of the suit, submitted that he had no instructions on the use of the word.
Jethmalani went on to say that in a suit for defamation, the personal character of the plaintiff is extremely important.
“I am conducting a case, wherein I intend to prove that he (Jaitley) has no reputation whatsoever.”
“This man does not even deserve a paisa from this suit against the defendants (Kejriwal and five other AAP functionaries),” he added.
Senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Sandeep Sethi, who were representing Jaitley, said that Jethmalani was putting scandalous questions and should restrain himself from asking irrelevant ones “as this matter is Arun Jaitley versus Arvind Kejriwal and not Ram Jethmalani versus Arun Jaitley”.
A group of lawyers including Jethmalani who were defending the AAP leaders also maintained that Jaitley was not entitled to a claim of Rs 10 crore on account of his alleged defamation.
Jaitley has filed the civil defamation suit seeking Rs 10 crore damages from Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders -- Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai -- for accusing him of financial irregularities in the Delhi & District Cricket Association of which he was the president from 2000 to 2013.
The verbal exchange between Jethmalani and Jaitley started when the former asked a question alleging that his article on irregularities in DDCA could not get published in a weekly magazine at the instance of the finance minister.
Jethmalani also alleged that the article pertained to the corruption in DDCA during the period when Jaitley was its president.
The question, however, was disallowed by the joint registrar observing that she had already termed the article irrelevant on the day of recording of the statement on the ground that it was not connected with the instant case. Jethmalani, however, insisted that it was.
He also alleged that Jaitley was “deceiving the people by concealing his guilt of crime.”
The counsel representing the finance minister vehemently opposed the choice of words by Jethmalani, saying he must stop insulting the minister.
However, as Jethmalani continued his attack, the joint registrar objected to it and said the senior lawyer and other advocates were crossing the limit and should allow the court to proceed in the matter.
The court listed the matter for further cross-examination on July 28 and July 31 after Kejriwal’s counsel asked the court to defer it.