The Delhi High Court on Wednesday stayed the order of a trial court which issued summons to Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly and Delhi BJP MLA, and three other BJP leaders in a defamation complaint filed by AAP leader Raghav Chadha over their remarks against an alleged multi-crore scam in the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri issued notice to Chadha and the DJB directing the BJP leaders concerned to file their responses in the matter till the next hearing on March 16, 2022.
In the petition filed by advocates Neeraj and Satya Ranjan Swain, Bidhuri said being the opposition leader in the national capital, he was at the forefront of exposing the irregularities in functioning of the Delhi government.
It is essential for an opposition party in a democracy to highlight the irregularities and this process balances a democratic system, the BJP leader added.
Senior Advocates, R. Venkatramani and Ajay Burman, appeared on behalf of the petitioner.
On November 18, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh of Rouse Avenue district court held that there was sufficient ground for proceedings against the respondents — Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, the BJP MLA from Badarpur; Delhi BJP President Adesh Gupta; Vijender Gupta, BJP MLA from Rohini; and Delhi BJP media relations in-charge and spokesperson, Harish Khurana — to summon them under Sections 500 (punishment for defamation) and 33 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, no notice or summons from any of the investigating agencies have been sent to the law office of the DJB with respect to the allegations made by the respondents.
Raghav Chadha said that he was informed about the summons by the office of the law consultant of DJB. The order said that in view of the allegations made in the complaint, testimonies and material brought on record by them, this court is prima facie satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for summoning of all the respondents.
As per the complaint on January 21, 2021, a press conference was held by the BJP leaders wherein allegations were levelled against the DJB that it has committed a scam of Rs 26,000 crore.
In the defamation suit moved through advocate Prashant Manchanda, the complainant alleged that the BJP leaders referred to the board as ‘Dalali Jal Board’.
The respondents made defamatory statements on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, and print media which were widely shared by the official page of Delhi BJP on Twitter.
It is alleged that defamatory content spoken and disseminated by the respondents found a prominent place in numerous Hindi newspapers. It was also live telecast on the official Facebook page of Delhi BJP, the DJB alleged in its complaint.