Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday directed a sessions court here to transfer to another judge pleas of AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Sanjay Singh challenging a trial court’s order to summon them in a criminal defamation case over their remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree.
The court of Justice Samir Dave directed the principal sessions judge of Ahmedabad to transfer the revision applications of the two leaders against the summons issued by the metropolitan court to another judge who will decide on the same within 10 days from the date of assignment of the matter.
He was told that the in-charge judge hearing the matter was on leave and had kept it for September 16, even when the case was to be heard in the metropolitan court on August 31.
The HC then disposed of the pleas of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders.
Lawyer Sudhir Nanavati, appearing for complainant Gujarat University, said that they won’t oppose the AAP leaders’s pleas for adjournment of the criminal case before the metropolitan court for a suitable period till the final hearing and disposal of their revision applications in the sessions court.
“Nobody can prevent them from submitting an application (for adjournment), and the learned magistrate can consider that application. In the meantime, the revision application can be fixed for final hearing. We cannot have any objection,” he submitted.
“The learned principal sessions judge, city civil court Ahmedabad is directed to transfer the matter of court number 16 to any other court…. And the concerned presiding officer will decide the criminal revision application … within a period of ten days from his assignment of the matter,” stated the court in its order.
“If any application will be made by the original accused, the original complainant will give no objection for the adjournment of the criminal case,” he said, disposing of their pleas.
The court had earlier rejected the AAP leaders’ pleas for an interim stay on proceedings after noting that both had earlier given an assurance to the metropolitan court that they would remain present before it to record their statements.
A sessions court here had on August 22 rejected their pleas to expeditiously hear their applications challenging summons issued to them by the trial court in a criminal defamation case and kept the matter for hearing on September 16. The two leaders then moved the HC.
A metropolitan court first summoned Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal and AAP’s Rajya Sabha member Singh on April 15 this year in the defamation case filed by Gujarat University over their “sarcastic” and “derogatory” statements in connection with PM Modi’s degree. It has posted the matter for the next hearing on August 31.
The two AAP leaders later filed revision applications in the sessions court challenging the metropolitan court’s summons in the defamation case. However, the sessions court on August 7 rejected their pleas for an interim stay on the trial, after which, they approached the Gujarat High Court.
The court refused an interim stay, prompting Kejriwal to approach the Supreme Court, which last Friday refused to entertain his plea.
As Kejriwal and Singh’s matter was listed on serial number 289 in the cause list of the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday, their lawyer mentioned the matter for urgent hearing in the morning, citing the Supreme Court’s order which stated that it hoped and trusted that “the High Court will consider and decide the interim application, if it is not possible to decide the main petition on the said date”.
The court then decided to take the matter to 2.30 pm.
The metropolitan court has summoned the two leaders after observing that prima facie there appeared to be a case against them under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Gujarat University registrar Piyush Patel had filed a defamation case against Kejriwal and Singh over their comments after the Gujarat High Court set aside an order of the Chief Information Commissioner on PM Modi’s degree.
They made “defamatory” statements in press conferences and on Twitter handles targeting the university over Modi’s degree, the complainant stated.
Their comments targeting the Gujarat University were defamatory and hurt the prestige of the university which has established its name among the public, as per the complainant.
Their statements were sarcastic and intentionally made to hurt the prestige of the university, he said.
Some of the comments quoted by the complainant and attributed to Kejriwal are: “If there is a degree and it is genuine, then why is it not being given?”; “They are not giving degree because it might be fake”; and “If the Prime Minister studied at Delhi University and Gujarat University, then Gujarat University should celebrate that its student became the country’s PM”.
Singh said that “they (Gujarat University) are trying to prove the PM’s fake degree as genuine”, according to the complainant.
The AAP leaders’ statements would make a person believe that the varsity issues fake and bogus degrees, the complainant had said.