Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal was today put on trial by a Delhi court on charges of defamation on a complaint filed against him by Nitin Gadkari after he refused to settle the issue with the BJP leader.
"After careful consideration of the entire material on record , in my opinion, there is sufficient material to establish a prima facie case against accused (Kejriwal) under section 499/500 (defamation) of the IPC," Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha said.
If he is found guilty, he might face two years in prison.
The court framed the notice under section 251 of the CrPC (dealing with trial of summons cases by magistrate) against Kejriwal, former Delhi Chief Minister, after he refused to heed to the magistrate's suggestion to amicably resolve the matter with Gadkari.
"Since the offence under section 500 IPC is compoundable, therefore the complainant (Gadkari) has been asked whether he wishes to compound the offence. However, despite efforts, no compromise could be effected between the parties," it said.
After the court framed the notice, Kejriwal pleaded not guilty to the offence and claimed trial.
"Notice under section 251 CrPC for the said offence is accordingly framed against the accused (Kejriwal) separately to which accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial," the court said.
The court, however, allowed Kejriwal's plea in which he sought exemption from personal appearance till further orders.
Kejriwal sought exemption saying that being the national convenor of AAP, he was required to meet various delegations, attend numerous conferences and meetings.
He said that "due to his crusade against corruption, a lot of cases have been filed against him and a considerable amount of his time is getting used up in appearing and defending himself in such cases."
The counsel appearing for Gadkari opposed his plea saying exemption from personal appearance should not be granted as a matter of course and should be allowed only in rare circumstances.
Kejriwal was earlier summoned as an accused by the court in the defamation complaint in which Gadkari had alleged that he was defamed by the AAP leader who had included his name in the party's list of "India's most corrupt".
Gadkari, who appeared before the court in the case, told the court, "I am an honest politician and damage has been caused to my reputation by the defamatory allegation levelled agaisnt me by Kejriwal. I don't have any personal enmity against Kejriwal," Gadkari said.
The court, however, allowed Kejriwal's plea for exemption saying, "Keeping in view the nature of the case and also as no prejudice is likely to be caused to the prosecution or the complainant, if the personal attendance of the accused is dispensed with, therefore the application at hand is allowed."
It said that appearance of the accused shall be exempted through his counsel till further orders and imposed certain conditions on Kejriwal, including that he shall appear in the court as and when required and shall be represented by his lawyer on each and every date of hearing.
The court has fixed the matter for August 2 for recording of statements of Gadkari and his witnesses.
In the morning session today, the court had advised Kejriwal to bury the hatchet and amicably settle the issue with Gadkari.
"Why don't you both shake hands before the court and finish the matter on an amicable note? Why don't you bury your hatchet and utilise time in a more productive manner?" the court said, adding, "You both are renowned politicians, people look up to you."
Gadkari told the court that he was ready to resolve the issue if Kejriwal withdraws his statement.
Kejriwal, however, refused to withdraw his statement and allegations which he had levelled against Gadkari.
"I can't withdraw my statement and allegation. I have documentary proof for all the allegations," Kejriwal said.