Jaitley, Jethmalani clash in High Court in defamation case

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior advocate Ram Jethmalani on Wednesday clashed in the Delhi High Court with the Minister taking strong objection to the word “crook” used by the lawyer during cross examination in the defamation case filed against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

“I intend to show that this man (Jaitley) is a crook,” said Jethmalani, prompting strong objection from Jaitley.

Jaitley, who was being cross-examined, furiously asked Jethmalani whether the word “crook” used by him was in his personal capacity or as per the instruction of Kejriwal.

Jaitley threatened to seek higher damages. “I will aggravate the charges against the defendants (Kejriwal)… There is a limit to personal malice,” he said after Jethmalani, appearing for Kejriwal, said he wanted to prove that the Union Minister was a “crook”.

Asked to clarify the source of the word, Jethmalani said it has been used by him on instruction from his client (Kejriwal).

Senior counsels Rajiv Nayyar and Sandeep Sethi, representing Jaitley, objected to Jethmalani referring to the Minister as being “guilty of crime and crookery”.

During the proceedings, Jethmalani and some lawyers defending the AAP leaders contended that Jaitley was not entitled to the Rs 10 crore damages he has sought from Kejriwal and others.

Joint Registrar (JR) Deepali Sharma disallowed a question by Jethmalani in which he accused Jaitley of stalling publication of an article, written by Jethmalani, criticising the Finance Minister in a leading newspaper.

Jethmalani contented 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 Arun Jaitley has no reputation whatsoever,” the lawyer said.

The JR disallowed the question, saying, “The question is disallowed as the article has been observed to be irrelevant by the court on May 15, 2017. Moreover, the defendant number one (Kejriwal) is seeking to make specific inquiries into a matter, which is not an issue in the instant case,” the JR said.

Jaitley was being cross-examined by Kejriwal’s counsel and senior advocate Jethmalani in connection with the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) defamation case filed by the Minister.

In December 2015, Jaitley filed a civil defamation case against Kejriwal and AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpayee, claiming that they made “false and defamatory” statements in the case involving DDCA, thereby harming his reputation.

Jaitley has sought Rs 10 crore in damages from Kejriwal and other AAP leaders.

He had claimed that the AAP leaders attacked him over alleged irregularities and financial bungling in Delhi’s cricket association, of which he was the President for about 13 years.

The court has listed the case for further cross-examination on July 28 and 31.