Friday, May 23, 2014

Kejriwal to remain in judicial custody for “defaming” Gadkari as “India’s most corrupt politician”

Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party will remain in judicial custody till 6 June as a Delhi court ruled the extension of his custody in the Nitin Gadkari defamation case after he refused to furnish bond on May 23.  The next date hearing is on June 6. Meanwhile, AAP is thinking of moving to the High Court for relief.  AAP has expressed its disagreement with the decision of Gomati Manocha, the Metropolitan Magistrate.

Kejriwal has spent two nights in Tihar Jail for not paying personal bond of Rs 10,000 to Patiala House court, has to serve 14 more days in the jail as he rejected court’s demand for bond payment second time.

Kejriwal was earlier produced before Patiala House court on May 21 for “defaming” Gadkari as “India’s most corrupt politician” in a list of people he had issued on January 31, 2014.

When the Magistrate had demanded a personal bond, Kejriwal had said that he was ready to give an undertaking to appear before the court but refused to furnish a bail bond on “principal grounds”.

Kejriwal’s advocate Prashant Bhushan is that there were at least four precedents in the past where courts have accepted the undertakings given by Kejriwal in similar cases and did not insist on a bail bond. 

According to the AAP, “there is no provision in law which makes it mandatory for a defendant against whom a complaint is filed in a defamation case to furnish a bail bond, particularly when he is ready and willing to be present in the court on the fixed date of hearing”.

AAP had first exposed the corrupt deals of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Gadkari in October 2012. AAP's expose against Gadkari about his business deals and involvement in land deals led to his resignation as BJP President in 2012.
Rich people and politicians harass public interest persons through defamation suits to silence them. Supreme Court or Delhi High Court should take suo motto of the legal position with regard to the defamation cases and intervene sooner rather than latter. If higher judiciary does not act to protect who raise issues of corruption with documentary evidence, people's trust in judiciary will get eroded. Each day people like Kejriwal spend in jail erodes the foundation of judicial system which seems to be giving a signal to the public interest persons that if they raise their voice against corruption they too will face the same fate.    

In statement on a listseve which is high critical of Kejriwal and APP, one  Madhav Nalapat aptly captured the situation, "It is unfortunate that the (colonial-era) laws are such that an individual can get sent to jail simply for calling a prosperous politician corrupt. Whatever one's views on Arvind Kejriwal,his incarceration will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.The Indian media,as is its won't,has chased the "lizard's tail" of Arvind refusing to post a bail bond,while missing out on the "lizard" viz a magistrate jailing an individual for what in more robust democracies passes off as fair comment about political leaders."

When Kejriwal asked that he does not know w hat his crime is, the magistrate reportedly responded saying, "We have not asked you to submit bail bond. It's only a personal bond. This is the procedure. Just because you are summoned doesn't mean you are an accused." But her order of May 21, 2014  refers to Kejriwal as "accused".

In a statement, Kejriwal said, "I am in jail for fighting against corruption but Nitin Gadkari is roaming free." He added, "दिलचस्प है कि गडकरी जी पर भ्रष्टाचार के आरोपों की जांच तक नहीं हुई और जिसने भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ आवाज उठाई उसे जेल में डाल दिया गया." Earlier, he told the court, "I am fighting against corruption. I will not seek bail as I have not done anything wrong." 

Indeed the court is seized with lizard's tail. This creates a situation where the magistrate herself is on trial in the court of legal luminaries and law colleges it seems.


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