New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal was today granted exemption from personal appearance for the day by a Delhi Court in a criminal defamation complaint filed against him by an advocate.
The Chief Minister-designate sought exemption from personal appearance on the ground that he has to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today.
Metropolitan Magistrate Muneesh Garg allowed Kejriwal's plea and directed him to positively appear in the court on March 17.
The court also granted exemption from personal appearance today to AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Yogendra Yadav on similar grounds.
The court had earlier released all the three AAP leaders on bail after they had appeared in the court on June 4 last year in pursuance to summons against them.
The summons were issued on the complaint of advocate Surender Kumar Sharma under sections 499, 500 (defamation) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC, with the court, saying there was prima facie material to summon the accused.
Advocate Rishikesh Kumar, who appeared for the three AAP leaders, submitted that in view of yesterday's Delhi Assembly election results in which the AAP has won 67 out of 70 seats, Kejriwal and two others were busy in meetings and could not appear in the court.
He said Kejriwal has to meet various party leaders and they are also scheduled to meet the Home Minister. The plea was opposed by the complainant, saying Kejriwal and the two other leaders should have appeared in the court as all are equal before law. He argued that be it Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal, they are not above the law and they should not waste court's time.
The court, however, gave a last opportunity to Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav and directed them to appear on March 17 when it is likely to pronounce its order on framing charges against the three leaders.
While issuing summons against AAP leaders, the court had said, "The press release published in newspapers as well as testimonies of witnesses reflect that defamatory remarks were published in the newspaper which affected the reputation of the complainant in the society and lowered his reputation in the eyes of other members of the society."
The court, however, had rejected the complainant's plea that AAP leaders had conspired and cheated him, saying in the absence of the very element of deception, there was no prima facie material against any of the accused for the offence of cheating and criminal conspiracy.
Sharma had alleged that in 2013 he was approached by volunteers of AAP who had asked him to contest Delhi Assembly election on a party ticket saying Kejriwal was pleased with his social services. He filled up the application form to contest the polls after being told by Sisodia and Yadav that AAP's Political Affairs Committee of the party had decided to give him the ticket. However, it was later denied to him.
On October 14, 2013, the complainant claimed that articles in leading newspapers carried "defamatory, unlawful and derogatory words used by the accused persons" which have lowered his reputation in the Bar and the society.
The newspapers also quoted a party statement saying it was found that there were criminal cases and FIRs pending against its candidate (complainant) and he had failed to mention these in his application, the complaint said.
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