The Delhi High Court on Monday verbally observed that Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra would have to be allowed to defend herself if allegations are publicly levelled against her by advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, Bar and Bench reported.

Justice Prateek Jalan made the observation while hearing a defamation suit filed by Dehadrai, who is Moitra’s estranged partner. The lawyer is seeking Rs 2 crore in damages from the Trinamool Congress leader for allegedly making defamatory statements against him on social media as well as print and electronic media in connection with the cash-for-query case.

Moitra, who represented West Bengal’s Krishnanagar constituency, was expelled from the Lok Sabha in December after Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey and Dehadrai had accused her of taking bribes from businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions in Parliament.

The Central Bureau of Investigation booked Moitra on March 21, two days after the Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman, directed it to investigate the allegations against her.

On Monday, advocate Raghav Awasthi, representing Dehadrai, told the court that the cash-for-query allegations levelled against Moitra were not meant for the press but were meant as a service to the nation.

Awasthi, referring to interviews given by the Trinamool Congress leader, said that Moitra had used derogatory terms against Dehadrai and had alleged that he was acting at the behest of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

He also told the court there was a power difference between Dehadrai and Moitra as the advocate is a private citizen and she is a politician.

“She [Moitra] has millions of followers on X, the power differential is much higher,” the advocate said.

Advocate Samudra Sarangi, appearing for Moitra, alleged that Dehadrai had spoken to the media after a previous hearing in the court on March 20 in connection with the defamation suit.

The court said that it would have to take into account whether Dehadrai had levelled allegations against Moitra in the public domain.

“If you [Dehadrai] are going to use the fact that you do not have an injunction against you and keep making allegations, then she [Moitra] has to defend herself,” Jalan said. “I will record that if he is going to continue to make the statements in public domain then I will give her the liberty to defend herself.”

The court remarked that Moitra and Dehadrai had brought the public discourse on the matter to a low level. It also warned Moitra against making false statements about Dehadrai.

“Your client (Moitra) has to be careful or I will injunct her,” Jalan said. “If you continue to make objectively untrue statements against a person… I have no intention to injunct her beyond what is necessary,” he added.

The court then adjourned the matter to April 25.

Case against Mahua Moitra

Moitra was expelled from Parliament based on a motion moved by Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi.

The motion was based on a recommendation by the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee that had found the Trinamool Congress leader guilty of having shared her login credentials to the Parliamentary website with Hiranandani and accepting gifts in exchange for asking the questions in Parliament.

On April 3, the Enforcement Directorate registered a money laundering case against Moitra and Hiranandani.