New Delhi, May 14: The Supreme Court on Thursday accused Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of double standards after he sought stay on crimil defamation proceedings against him but his government issued a circular permitting action against media groups for defamatory reporting. “Don’t you feel that there is dichotomy between you challenging section 499 and section 500 of the Indian Pel Code relating to defamation and the circular issued by you,” asked the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant. The observations came while hearing an application by Amit Sibal, seeking vacation of the stay of the defamation proceedings against Kejriwal initiated by him. While not accepting the plea for stay, Justice Misra said: “We are not vacating the stay but we are staying the circular.”
The Aam Aadmi Party government had on May 6 issued a circular which said if any person was aggrieved by any publication of a news item, that person can refer it to the Delhi home department, which in consultation with the law department, can grant sanction for prosecution, leading to a defamation case. The circular invoked sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Indian Pel Code (IPC) and section 199(2) of the Code of Crimil Procedure (CrPC) which Kejriwal had urged the court to declare unconstitutiol in his own defamation case. Appearing for Amit Sibal, counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi urged the court to vacate the stay on the crimil defamation proceedings granted by it on May 1 in the defamation case instituted by Amit Sibal on the allegation of conflict of interest between him and his then union minister father Kapil Sibal. Kejriwal and other AAP leaders had alleged conflict of interest in the responsibilities of Kapil Sibal, the then telecom minister, with Amit Sibal appearing for telecom operators in court.
The defamation suit is rooted in a May 15, 2013 press conference in which Kejriwal had alleged conflict of interest, saying that Amit Sibal had appeared in the Supreme Court for Vodafone while his father Kapil Sibal was the communications minister. While seeking stay on the defamation proceedings, Kejriwal on May 1 had sought quashing of CrPC section 199(2) (offence against a public servant including high sigtories), contending they were “excessive, arbitrary and unreasoble and violative of the right to freedom of speech and expression”. The court had on May 1 tagged Kejriwal’s petition with that of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, in which the court is examining whether section 499 and 500 travelled beyond article 19(2) of the Constitution that imposes reasoble restriction on the freedom of speech and expression. (IANS)