DDCA defamation row: HC disallows Jethmalani's questions dragging PM

Jethmalani's questions whether Jaitley has filed the suit after consulting the Prime Minister and would he like to make Modi a witness in his defence, were disallowed by Joint Registrar Deepali Sharma

Published: 16th May 2017 02:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2017 02:56 AM   |  A+A-

Ram Jethmalani (File | PTI)


NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court today once again disallowed questions by Arvind Kejriwal's counsel Ram Jethmalani to drag in any manner the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a civil defamation suit filed by Union Minister Arun Jaitley against the Delhi Chief Minister.

Jethmalani's questions whether Jaitley has filed the suit after consulting the Prime Minister and would he like to make Modi a witness in his defence, were disallowed by Joint Registrar Deepali Sharma.

When Jethmalani asked Jaitley about consultation with the Prime Minister for filing the suit, the minister's counsel questioned its relevance, which was accepted by the court.

"The question is disallowed as it is irrelevant to the issues in the matter," the Joint Registrar said.

Jethmalani, who was expelled from BJP for six years in 2013, has also asked Jaitley "Since you are a minister in the Cabinet, the best character witness for you should be the Prime Minister. Do you intend to examine him?"

"Question is disallowed as the list of witnesses of plaintiff (Jaitley) is on record," Joint Registrar said after the minister's counsel Rajiv Nayar and Sandeep Sethi protested against the question.

Jethmalani was cross-examining Jaitley who is holding two portfolios as the Minister of Finance and Defence in the Modi cabinet.

Earlier in March this year too, Jethmalani had made an unsuccessful attempt to drag the Prime Minister in the matter, alleging that Jaitley was allowed to hold his ministry on the promise to Modi that he will come clean in connection with the irregularities in DDCA.

"The suggestion is denied in its entirety" was the reply of Jaitley who had also said the "Prime Minister had not said anything to him at any point of time. It is incorrect."

The day's proceedings also saw Jaitley refuting an allegation of Kejriwal that there was a misappropriation of Rs 57 crore during his term as a president of the DDCA, saying the amounts were spent on creation of sports infrastructure and duly audited.

Jaitley, who has a filed a Rs 10 crore civil defamation suit against Kejriwal was subjected to intense grilling by the chief minister's counsel Ram Jethmalani.

He termed the allegation as "wrong" and said there is "no controversy except a false allegation" by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief.

"All monies have been duly spent during my tenure and are accordingly reflected in the audited accounts," Jaitley said.

Jethmalani sought to know from the BJP leader whether it was correct or not that Rs 57 crore was misappropriate and was shown as expenses in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) account.

Jaitely said "The monies have been spent on the creation of a sports infrastructure and assets. The assets which have been created by this expenditure factually exist at the site and are duly reflected in the audited accounts. There is no controversy except a false allegation by the defendants."

The proceedings which lasted for around two hours saw Jethmalani claiming that Jaitley being the president in the year 2003 had delibrately declined the proposals of the central government and Dhirubhai Ambani of more than Rs 22 crore to build Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.

He said Dhirubhai Ambani had proposed that he will give financial support, provided his name was put, while the Centre had said they will bear all expenses if the stadium was named after the great leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee.

"Some oral suggestions without any firm proposal of this kind were suggested but they never fructified and the DDCA then decided to build the stadium on the basis of resources it mobilises on its own," was the reply of Jaitley.

He said the association had created a new model, under which naming rights of various blocks and corporate boxes, could provide adequate funding to start the construction and its historical name 'Feroz Shah Kotla' was retained.

The minister's counsel interrupted with one voice when Jethmalani tried to link Jaitley with senior journalist and now a Minister, M J Akbar, over alleged non-publishing of an article in a national daily regarding the irregularities in the DDCA.

There was also an exchange of words between Jaitley's and Kejriwal's advocates when Jethmalani asked the minister how he would establish his reputation vis-a-vis the allegations made against him.

The court drama also saw Jethmalani, who lost his cool and shouted at Jaitley, saying "he has no reputation of any kind whatsoever".

A bunch of lawyers in support of Kejriwal shouted that the question and point raised in the court was linked to the civil defamation suit filed by Jaitley 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 DDCA of which he was the President from 2000 to 2013.

The senior BJP leader's cross-examination remained inconclusive and will now take place on May 17.

The union minister during the cross examination turned down Jethmalani's suggestion that he had taken a decision not to take financial help in construction of the stadium as he did not want any interference in the manner of spending by the cricketing body.

"The suggestion is wrong in its entirety. Government of India ordinarily do not fund construction of stadiums.

"Further, there was no serious suggestions made to us in writing. In order to ensure probity in spending, the contract for construction of the stadium through bidding process was awarded to a public sector organisation," Jaitley submitted.

In his replies, he also refuted the AAP leader's counsel's claim that he did not want any donor from the public life, nor from the government to ensure that no one "pry into the manner in which the DDCA was running".

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