The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on a petition challenging a Delhi High Court order in a defamation case against him.
A bench headed by Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice S.A. Bobde also stayed the operation of the high court order that had permitted Kejriwal to approach the lower court for his discharge in the defamation suit filed by Amit Sibal, son of union Law and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal.
The defamation suit is rooted in a May 15, 2013 press conference in which Kejriwal, while alleging conflict of interest, had said that Amit Sibal had appeared in the Supreme Court for Vodafone while his father was the communications minister.
The lower court had issued summons to Kejriwal and others. Kejriwal had then moved the high court seeking exemption from appearance as he wanted to be discharged in the matter.
The high court by its Jan 16 order permitted Kejriwal and three others - Manish Sisodia, Prashant Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi, to plea for discharge before the trial court and dispensed with their personal appearance till their plea for discharge was decided by the lower court.
Amit Sibal, in his plea, asked if the high court could have conferred the power of discharge on a magistrate on a summon triable case instituted on a private complaint when there exist no such provision in law.
The petitioner asked whether the high court could have exempted Kejriwal and three others from personal appearance before the magistrate when no such ground was prayed or pleaded by them.
In the press conference addressed by Kejriwal and others, Amit Sibal said that it was "directly and indirectly alleged and imputed" that he had acted in a "dishonest and unethical manner, placing personal interest over the national interest, in order to help a telecom company, Vodafone International Holding BV to illegally avoid an alleged tax liability".
Amit Sibal had filed the complaint in the matter May 27, 2013 before the court of the additional chief metropolitan magistrate. After hearing the complaint, the court took the cognizance of the matter as it felt a prima facie case has been made out and July 24, issued summons to Kejriwal and other three with direction to appear Aug 313.
Against this order, Kejriwal and others moved the high court which by its Jan 16 order asked the trial court to entertain their discharge plea and till then exempted them from personal appearance.