A Delhi court today asked Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar and the head of an Ahmedabad-based NGO to inform it by March 25 whether the two can compromise and withdraw the defamation cases which they have lodged against each other.
Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Wason has asked Patkar and VK Saxena, president of the NGO, National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), to settle their differences and withdraw the defamation cases. Wason is hearing three separate cases lodged by Patkar and Saxena against each other. "It is submitted by the counsel that there are chances of compromise with the parties. Put up for compromise if any... on March 25," the court said, allowing Saxena's plea for exemption for the day after his flight was cancelled due to bad weather.
Saxena's absence was opposed by Patkar and her counsel VK Ohri, who requested the court to impose costs on the former as she herself had been fined for her non appearance in the case. "A fine was imposed on me when I was on an indefinite hunger strike for some good cause," Patkar told the court, adding that the fine slapped on her had been a huge sum for her to pay.
The court, however, said that it would not be fair to do so and suggested that they instead settle their cases and withdraw them. To which Patkar said that if Saxena was willing, she was ready to settle for a compromise.
Advocate Mahipal Ahluwalia and Subhashis R Soren, counsels for Saxena, said that they needed to take instructions from their client.
But Saxena's counsels pointed out that since Patkar had first filed the case against their client, if she withdrew and settled the matter, he would do so too.
However, the judge said, "Whether you do first or her. No one will become small, if they withdrew the case first." Meanwhile, Patkar told the judge that Saxena wanted her to withdraw cases against him lodged in Ahmedabad, which she said she cannot do. The judge said, "I am only concerned with my cases."
Patkar and Saxena have been locked in defamation cases lodged against each other since 2000 after she filed a suit against him for advertisements published against herself and Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Patkar had filed one defamation case against Saxena, who, in turn, filed two lawsuits against her. She had filed the suit over the publication in 2000 of the article, 'True Face of Medha Patkar and her NBA', allegedly at the behest of Saxena, against whom the court has already framed charges.
The case was shifted from Ahmedabad to Delhi by Supreme Court following a plea by Patkar.
The court had earlier framed charges under Section 500 (defamation) of the IPC against both Patkar and Saxena in the separate cases filed by them against each other.