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Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today suffered a jsetback when the Delhi High Court dismissed his plea seeking stay of trial court proceedings court in a criminal defamation case filed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying, there was no "illegality" in continuing it simultaneously with a civil defamation suit.
The High Court said there was "no prejudice" on account of a pending civil suit and there was no "double jeopardy" and as such Kejriwal's plea was "deviod of merit".
It said the criminal and civil defamation cases were "different in nature".
"There is no legal impediment to invoke the civil proceedings for defamation as well as initiating the criminal proceedings for defamation simultaneously and continuation of the same," Justice Teji said.
Kejriwal had contented that proceedings before the trial court should be stayed since a civil suit was pending before the high court
Regarding the challenge to the magisterial court's May 19 order dismissing Kejriwal's plea to grant stay on proceedings due to pendency of civil suit, the high court said that the trial court order was "free from perversity, impropriety, illegality and non-sustainability".
"Resultantly, the request of the petitioner (Kejriwal) to adjourn the proceedings before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate is rejected being devoid of merit and the same is culminated into dismissal of the present petition," the high court said in its 30-page judgement.
Regarding Kejriwal's submission that continuation of both
the cases would tantamount to double jeopardy, the court said, "the contention of the petitioner is not tenable in view of the fact that the proceedings initiated by respondent no.1 (Jaitley) against him are entirely different".
"While the civil proceedings have been initiated claiming damages for damaging the reputation of the respondent no.1, the case at hand is the criminal defamation. Pendency of both the cases cannot be said to be said to be amounting to double jeopardy," the court said.
Dealing with the ground of prejudice raised by the AAP leader, the court said, "Prejudice to the right of the accused is the prime consideration to stay the proceedings. No prejudice to the right of the accused has been demonstrated in the present case".
It said nothing has been brought before it to the effect that continuation of criminal proceedings before the trial court was an "abuse of the process of law".
The court observed that though Jaitley has initiated two proceedings, "the fact remains that same are distinct and separate cases".
"Therefore, this court is of the view that the petitioner (Kejriwal) cannot get the stay of the criminal defamation case at hand by claiming the benefit under section 10 of the CPC (civil procedure code)," the court said.
The court also did not agree with Kejriwal's arguments in which he had contended that any finding recorded by the high court was binding on the court subordinate to it.
"When two separate statutes provide for separate jurisdiction to try civil and criminal cases in two different courts, the same cannot be said to be binding upon each other or the Court subordinate to it," it said.