Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani
has quit as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s lawyer in the defamation cases filed by Union Finance Minister (FM) Arun Jaitley
against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader.
The move comes after Kejriwal denied Jethmalani any instructions to use offensive remarks referring to Jaitley as a crook and being guilty of crimes during a cross-examination conducted by him on May 17. Jethmalani had made the comments while appearing on behalf of Kejriwal in a Rs 10-crore defamation suit filed by the FM in the high court here against the AAP supremo and five other party leaders for accusing him of corruption during his tenure as president of the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) between 2000 and 2013. Jaitley has denied the accusations and termed the allegations defamatory in nature.
Following Jethmalani’s comments in the cross-examination, Jaitley had asked the senior counsel whether such statements were made on the instructions of his client, to which the lawyer replied in the affirmative. The response prompted Jaitley to file a fresh Rs 10-crore defamation suit for the offensive remarks made on his reputation.
On an application filed on Wednesday by Jaitley’s lawyers to expedite the recording of evidence in the earlier defamation case in a fair and orderly manner, Justice Manmohan directed Kejriwal not to pose any “scandalous” questions while conducting the cross-examination and to conduct the proceedings in a dignified manner and in accordance with the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
The judge also said no person could be subject to abusive language in the garb of a cross-examination. The court, however, refused to pass any order against Kejriwal after considering his submissions, made in line with an affidavit filed in the fresh defamation suit, where the AAP leader has denied giving Jethmalani any instructions to use offensive remarks against Jaitley.
As part of the affidavit, Kejriwal has said that it is inconceivable that he would even think of instructing the senior advocate to use such objectionable words. Responding to this denial, Jethmalani is said to have sent the Delhi CM a strongly worded letter, reminding him of using even more offensive language against Jaitley during private discussions, and asks Kejriwal to settle his legal fees of around Rs 2 crore. The Delhi government has already made payments of Rs 3.5 crore (Rs 1 crore as retainer and Rs 22 lakh per appearance) to Jethmalani.
In a connected hearing, Kejriwal was also fined Rs 10,000 by the joint registrar for failing to file a response on why additional proceedings should not be initiated against him in line with Jaitley’s fresh defamation case. The court has now given the AAP leader a further two weeks to file his reply.