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Jaitley-Kejriwal Defamation Tussle: Delhi HC dismisses Kejriwal’s Application to expunge preliminary submissions in replication filed by Jaitley

The Delhi High Court dismissed the application filed by Arvind Kejriwal under Order 6 Rule 16 read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for striking off the preliminary submissions in the replication that had been filed by Arun Jaitley. The Single Judge Bench of Justice Manmohan did not accept plea of Kerjriwal for expunging preliminary submissions in the replication filed by Jaitley in the defamation case titled Arun Jaitley v. Arvind Kejriwal.

Refuting the contention of the defendant Kejriwal that pleas in the replication are inconsistent with the original pleadings and th at replication itself is “scandalous”, “vexatious” and “frivolous”, the Court held:

“The pleas in the replication are not inconsistent or at variance with the original pleadings. This Court is also of the view that neither Order VI nor Order VII CPC has been violated in the present instance. In fact, the averments in the replication crystallize the plaintiff’s stand on an important issue and are relevant to the case at hand. Consequently, the replication can neither be termed as scandalous nor frivolous or vexatious or unnecessary or abuse of process of law.”

Seeing no merit in the plea of the defendant’s application for striking off the pleadings filed by the plaintiff, the Court observed further: “[T]his court is of the view that the pleadings can be ordered to be struck off under Order 6 Rule 16, CPC only if they are shown to be unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious or abuse of the process of law or if they amount to re-litigation or tend to embarrass the defendants in the trial of the suit.”

Further, considering the fact that “replication” contains averments and evidence that support and facilitate the original cause of action and has in no way made out a new case or fresh cause of action or for that matter enlarged the scope of the suit and is in tune with the earlier judgment of the court respecting same, the Court observed: “In the opinion of this Court, the plaintiff in its replication has neither made out a new case nor a fresh cause of action or enlarged the scope of the suit. In fact, the replication in the present instance contains averments and evidence in support of the original cause of action as mentioned in the plaint and is the plaintiff’s answer to the defendant’s plea in the written statement in accordance with the judgment of this Court in Anant Construction (P) Ltd. Vs. Ram Niwas, 1994 (31) DRJ.”

However, the Court, looking through reasons behind the defendant’s stand that defendant has not had opportunity of rebutting the documents referred to in the replication permitted defendant to file an additional written statement. The Court said: “However, as the defendant states that he has not had the opportunity of rebutting the documents referred to in the replication, this Court permits the defendant to file an additional written statement in accordance with the Order 8 Rule 9 CPC within four weeks.”

Seeing no reasons as to striking off the pleadings filed by the plaintiff, the court analyzed the scope and ambit of Order 6 Rule 16, CPC, which refers to “Striking out pleadings” and laid down its underlying object while underscoring the fact all the same that courts should exercise extreme care and caution while striking out pleadings, same being power of extraordinary nature. The Court said that “[…] the underlying object of Order 6 Rule 16, CPC is to ensure that every party to a suit should state in its pleadings material facts in an intelligible form without causing embarrassment to its adversant. Normally, a court cannot direct parties as to how they should prepare their pleadings. If the parties have not violated the rules of pleadings by making appropriate averments or raising arguable issues, the court should not order the pleadings to be struck off. The power to strike out pleadings is extraordinary in nature and must be exercised by the court with extreme care, caution and circumspection.”

The counsel for the defendant had contended before the court that the plaintiff had exploited the opportunity of filing the replication for the purpose of introducing new allegations of defamation to make out a fresh case that is in addition to the case set out in the plaint. He had further contended that the plaintiff by bringing in the additional / new facts in the replication, intended to ‘rob’ the defendant of a chance to file a reply to the allegations made and that plaintiff had attempted to enlarge the scope of the suit by introducing completely new averments and pleadings against the defendant. Counsel for plaintiff had refuted the said contentions.

It is apt to mention here that the preliminary submissions of replication which led to the present application being filed by the defendant Kejriwal were that the plaintiff Jaitley had stated in his replication that it was only after the notice was issued by this Hon’ble Court on 23.07.2017 and summons were served on the Defendant on 06.06.2017, that the Defendant, in order to concoct a moonshine defense in the instant proceedings, speciously wrote to his senior Advocate on 20.07.2017, thereby allegedly denying his specific instructions to his senior advocate regarding usage of defamatory language against the plaintiff. In support of his contention, the plaintiff has referred to the interview given by the senior advocate representing the defendant in CS (OS) 3457/2015 to Times of India, a national daily, as well as a news portal and his letter to the plaintiff – all subsequent to the filing of the suit. The plaintiff has averred in the impugned paragraphs that the then senior advocate representing the defendant had voluntarily waived the lawyer-client privilege not only during the cross examination on 17th May, 2017 itself, but also subsequently in his interview to the Times of India, news portal as well as his letter addressed to the plaintiff.

It was alleged that the senior advocate representing the defendant had referred to the plaintiff as “crook” and had further remarked that the plaintiff was “guilty of crimes and crookery on the specific instruction of the defendant. The Plaintiff was represented in the case by Rajiv Nayar, Senior Advocate along with Advocates Manik Dogra and Saurabh Seth whereas defendant was represented by Anoop George Chaudhari, Senior Advocate along with Advocates Anupam Srivastava, Ms. Sumeeta Chaudhari and Mr. Irsad.

Read the judgment below:

MMH12122017S2362017-watermark

 

Arun Jaitley image by Augustus Binu [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Arvind Kejriwal’s image by Rajinder Pal Singh Brar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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