The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed several Aam Aadmi Party leaders to take down allegedly defamatory tweets and other social media posts accusing Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena of corruption, reported Bar and Bench.
Justice Amit Bansal restrained Aam Aadmi Party leaders Atishi, Durgesh Pathak, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Sanjay Singh and Jasmine Shah from levelling corruption allegations against Saxena.
The High Court was hearing a defamation complaint filed by the Delhi lieutenant governor against the Aam Aadmi Party leaders. It passed the order on an interim application by Saxena, seeking directions to the politicians to take down all tweets, posts or videos of the allegations, reported Live Law.
The legislators have accused the lieutenant governor of fraudulently exchanging banned currency notes worth Rs 1,400 crore when he was the chairperson of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission in 2016. The incident allegedly happened after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had demonetised old currency notes in November 2016.
Following the allegations, Saxena had filed the defamation suit against the Aam Aadmi Party leaders. The court had reserved its verdict on September 22 and sought response from both the parties.
On Tuesday, Senior Advocates Mahesh Jethmalani and Maninder Singh, appearing for Saxena, argued that the allegations made by Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders are false and defamatory, reported Bar and Bench.
“Their tweets and press conferences have been widely reported,” Singh told the court. “Functionaries of the party say all this day in and day out. They say Vinai Kumar Saxena was involved in a scam of Rs 1,400 crore. They may not take any names but we know they are referring to VK Saxena.”
Senior Advocates Sandeep Sethi and Rajiv Nayar, appearing for the Aam Aadmi Party leaders, argued that court should not pass an interim injunction order at this stage. They said it is still to be decided whether the allegations are true.
“The allegation is during this person’s [Saxena] tenure at KVIC [Khadi and Village Industries Commission], two people were arrested,” Sethi said. “They can say that this is hearsay, but the fact is two people have gone on record to say that this happened.”
He added that the principles laid down by the courts state that public functionaries must be open to criticism.
“As a political party, it is my duty to bring all these issues to public notice,” said Bharadwaj’s counsel. “The LG is not above law. I am not seeking investigation against him for something he did while being LG, but for his conduct during his tenure at KVIC.”
After hearing the arguments, the court passed the order in favour of the lieutenant governor.
“On a prima facie view, the various statements/interviews/press conferences/tweets/re-tweets/hashtags made are per se defamatory,” the High Court said. “They have been made in a reckless manner, without any factual verification, in order to tarnish the reputation of the plaintiff.”
CBI inquiry against Saxena
On August 29, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Durgesh Pathak had alleged that Saxena forced Khadi’s cashiers to exchange his old unaccounted banknotes. Two cashiers have exposed the scam, he added.
“But Vinai Kumar Saxena investigated their allegations and suspended the cashiers,” he had said. “Saxena rinsed the allegations to an extent that CBI never even mentioned his name in their complaint.”
The Central Bureau of Investigation had said the next day that only two cashiers, Sanjeev Malik and Pradeep Kumar Yadav, who converted banned notes worth Rs 17 lakh were involved in the scam.
The investigation agency had filed a chargesheet against the cashiers in December 2017.
Malik and Yadav dishonestly exchanged old currency notes with new ones received through sales cashiers, the Central Bureau of Investigation had alleged in the first information report. The central agency added that the cashiers conspired to keep new currency notes and derived financial benefits by corrupt and illegal means.
The cashiers had also deposited “black money of some suspected officers in the bank accounts of Khadi Gram Udyog at State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, Connaught Circus Branch”, the FIR had claimed.