Giving an edge to the Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena in his ongoing fight with the Aam Admi Party Government, the Delhi High Court asked the party leaders to show restraint and take down the alleged libelous posts, videos and tweets against the Governor from social media.
The single bench of Justice Amit Bansal was hearing a civil defamation suit filed by Saxena against the AAP leaders’ accusation that he was engaged in corruption during his tenure as Chief of Khadi Commission.
However, the lawyers of AAP asked the court not to pass interim injunctions as the truth about the allegations will be only be known when the trial is complete.
On what grounds were Saxena accused?
AAP which has been at loggerheads with Saxena over several corruption charges against its leaders, alleged that the Governor while holding the position of Chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) received and exchanged huge amount of demonetised currency in November, 2016. As per the allegation of AAP the exchange amounts to Rs. 1400 crores.
Brushing these claims aside the defamation suit of Saxena notes that in reality the whole issue is cooked up by AAP around the statements of two accused persons of KVIC who were engaged in exchange of the demonetised currency. Interestingly, it also claimed that though the original FIR filed by CBI signaled exchange of Rs. 17 Lakhs, AAP came out with ‘fanciful’ amount of Rs. 1400 crores.
Another allegation against the Governor was related to the contract of design given to his daughter during his tenure. Accepting the fact that Saxena’s daughter only designed Khadi Lounge the counsel said, ‘but it was on a pro bono basis.’ As there was no monetary exchange, there is no question of corruption, observes the judge.
Civil Defamation against AAP leaders
Amidst the continuous attacks in social media and other platforms for his alleged role in the KVIC corruption, Saxena pressed civil defamation charges against AAP and five of its leaders. The suit asked AAP leaders Atishi Singh, Saurabh Bharadwaj, Durgesh Pathak, Sanjay Singh, and Jasmine Shah to withdraw their defamatory, false and libelous posts, tweets or videos circulated and issued on social media against him and his family.
His counsel had urged the HC to direct Twitter and YouTube (Google Inc) to take down or remove the tweets, re-tweets, posts, videos, captions, taglines along with pictures of the plaintiff (Saxena) and his family members on their respective platforms.
He also asked for the compensation of 2.5 crores along with interest from the leaders and the party. Pointing out that nothing can substantiate the claims of AAP, Saxena’s counsel alleged that the AAP is using forged and fabricated documents.
Prior to the defamation suit Saxena also sent a legal notice to AAP leaders asking them to release a statement “directing all members of the party and all persons associated with it, whether directly or indirectly, to cease and desist from spreading and circulating false, defamatory, malicious and unsubstantiated statements.”
LG versus AAP: A Long-drawn battle
The relation between Saxena and the AAP Government has gone overboard since his deputation. The LG’s order to CBI to investigate the controversial liquor excise policy followed by his order to file FIR against Delhi Jal board for alleged embezzlement of Rs. 20 crores have significantly tainted the image of AAP.
Though the deputy CM Manish Sisodia warmly welcomed CBI to conduct raids and came out clean through the process, the continuous allegations labelled against the Government may affect its prospects in the upcoming Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections where the party is expecting to win a formidable vote share. The political observers however think that taking Saxena head on is not going to benefit AAP as the corruption charges against the Governor wouldn’t be able to heal the blots it has cast on its clean image.
AAP is known for his fight with the LGs. Earlier Saxena’s predecessor Najeeb Jung also had a bad time with Kejriwal as they fought over several issues including the recruitment of senior bureaucrats, transference of officials and over the appointment of chief of the anti-corruption bureau (ACB).
Though it is a matter of fact that different parties in Centre and state or for that matter Union territory evoke conflicts between CMs and the Governors, since the AAP’s win in Delhi, it has become a political routine.