New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior advocate Ram Jethmalani on Wednesday clashed in the Delhi High Court with the minister taking strong objection to the word "crook" used by the lawyer during cross-examination in the defamation case filed against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Jaitley, 64 , was in the court for the fourth round of cross-examination by Jethmalani, a 93-year-old veteran lawyer, in his defamation case against the AAP chief but the proceedings ended abruptly after an intense verbal duel broke out between the once close legal associates. The proceedings lasted barely 45 minutes.
The recording of Jaitley's statement in a civil defamation suit of Rs 10 crore filed by him against Kejriwal and other AAP functionaries could not continue as the finance minister objected to the use of an abusive word hurled at him by Jethmalani.
Jaitley, who appeared before Joint Registrar Deepali Sharma, lost his cool and asked Jethmalani whether the word was used as per instructions from Kejriwal. Jaitley threatened to seek higher damages. "I will aggravate the charges against the defendants (Kejriwal)... There is a limit to personal malice," Jaitley said after Jethmalani, appearing for Kejriwal, said he wanted to prove that the Union Minister was a "crook".
Jaitley, who is holding twin portfolios of Finance and Defence, also said that the senior counsel should clarify if he has made such comment in his personal capacity.
Jethmalani replied back, saying the said word has been used by him on instructions from his client (Kejriwal).
However, Anupam Srivastav, advocate on record for Kejriwal since the beginning of the suit, submitted that he had no instructions on the use of the word.
Jethmalani went on to say that in a suit for defamation, the personal character of the plaintiff is extremely important.
"I am conducting a case, wherein I intend to prove that he (Jaitley) has no reputation whatsoever."
"This man does not even deserve a paisa from this suit against the defendants (Kejriwal and five other AAP functionaries)," he added.
Senior advocates Rajiv Nayar and Sandeep Sethi, who were representing Jaitley, said that Jethmalani was putting scandalous questions and should restrain himself from asking irrelevant ones "as this matter is Arun Jaitley versus Arvind Kejriwal and not Ram Jethmalani versus Arun Jaitley".
A group of lawyers including Jethmalani who were defending the AAP leaders also maintained that Jaitley was not entitled to a claim of Rs 10 crore on account of his alleged defamation.
Jaitley has filed the civil defamation suit seeking Rs 10 crore damages from Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders — Raghav Chadha, Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Deepak Bajpai —for accusing him of financial irregularities in the DDCA of which he was the president from 2000 to 2013.
The verbal exchange between Jethmalani and Jaitley started when the former asked a question alleging that his article on irregularities in DDCA could not get published in a weekly magazine at the instance of the finance minister.
Jethmalani also alleged that the article pertained to the corruption in DDCA during the period when Jaitley was its president.
The question, however, was disallowed by joint registrar observing that she had already termed the article irrelevant on the day of recording of the statement on the ground that it was not connected with the instant case. Jethmalani, however, insisted that it was.
He also alleged that Jaitley was "deceiving the people by concealing his guilt of crime."
The counsel representing the finance minister vehemently opposed the choice of words by Jethmalani, saying he must stop insulting the minister.
However, as Jethmalani continued his attack, the joint registrar objected to it and said the senior lawyer and other advocates were crossing the limit and should allow the court to proceed in the matter.
The court listed the matter for further cross-examination on 28 July and 31 July after Kejriwal's counsel asked the court to defer it.
With inputs from PTI and IANS
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Updated Date: May 17, 2017 21:52:23 IST