Jaitley Irked After Jethmalani Calls Him ‘Crook’ in Ongoing Defamation Case

The union finance minister threatened to aggravate charges against Arvind Kejriwal and others named in the case if the word was used at their behest.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley was cross-examined in his case against Arvind Kejriwal today. Credit: Reuters/Files

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani’s cross examination of finance minister Arun Jaitley in the defamation case against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and five others almost snowballed into a personality clash between the two seasoned lawyers (and political rivals) after Jethmalani referred to Jaitley as a “crook”. And Jaitley threatened to seek aggravated damages from the defendants if the word was spoken at their behest.

As the cross examination entered its fourth day, with Jethmalani having already examined Jaitley on March 6 and 7, and then again on May 15, the air in the packed courtroom was already tense today. The verbal spat was triggered when Jethmalani claimed that a weekly magazine had refused to publish an article he authored on irregularities in Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DCCA) due to Jaitley’s influence.

The veteran lawyer went on to add that the article was about corruption which took place in the DDCA when Jaitley was its president. Jethmalani was trying to convey that a lot of corruption had taken place during Jaitley’s tenure as the DDCA’s chief by bringing up this particular case.

Jaitley filed the defamation case against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders – Kumar Vishwas, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Raghav Chadha and Deepak Bajpai – after they accused him of financial mismanagement during his 13-year stint as the president of the DDCA. Apart from filing a criminal complaint, Jaitley also filed a civil defamation case in which he sought Rs 10 crore in damages.

While Jethmalani primarily focussed on questioning Jaitley on whether his reputation was “irreparable and unquantifiable”, wondering aloud if it had something to do with his “personal feelings of greatness” on May 6 and 7, on May 15 Jethmalani sought to establish a link between Jaitley’s tenure as president of the DDCA and corruption by raising allegations of the misappropriation of funds meant for constructing a stadium.

Today, Jethmalani again focused on Jaitley’s tenure by referring to the article. But the joint registrar disallowed the question saying the matter was not relevant to the instant case. At this, Jethmalani said, “He (Jaitley) is a crook and I will show this.”

This evoked a strong response from Jaitley who threatened to aggravate the charges if Jethmalani used the word ‘crook’ at the behest of Kejriwal and others. Jethmalani replied, “Let the court note that I am doing this with my client’s consent.” He also claimed that Jaitley was “deceiving” people by trying to conceal his crime.

“If this is so, I would aggravate the charges against the defendant (Kejriwal),” Jaitley responded. He also accused Jethmalani of harbouring a personal grudge against him. “You have led a life of personal malice, everyone knows this,” he said.

The heated exchanges between the two sides continued and joint registrar Deepali Sharma had to intervene on several occasions. She repeatedly cautioned the advocates to maintain decorum. Jaitley’s advocates, Rajiv Nayar and Sandeep Sethi, accused Jethmalani of putting up scandalous questions which had no relevance to the case, saying it was a matter between Jaitley and Kejriwal and not one between the two advocate politicians.

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