A Delhi court framed charges under sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Indian Penal Code, or the IPC, against Aam Aam Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal after he refused to withdraw the allegations of corruption he had leveled against Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.
An initiative by Judge Gomti Manocha, who is hearing the defamation case filed by the former BJP president against the AAP leader, to facilitate an amicable settlement between the two leaders earlier in the day had fallen through after Mr. Kejriwal refused to retract his charges.
The 57-year-old Union Minister and the AAP leader, 45, faced each other for the first time this morning in the court at the Patiala House.
The judge, at the same time, exempted Mr. Kejriwal from making a personal appearance in the court on the day of hearing in the case.
Mr. Gadkari, who is now a Cabinet Minister in the Narendra Modi government, told the judge in the hearing held this morning that he would be willing to withdraw the defamation case if the AAP chief retracted his allegations against him.
Mr. Kejriwal had, in a press conference held in January, named the former BJP president among “the most corrupt politicians of India”.
In retaliation, Mr. Gadkari filed a defamation case against the AAP leader. “I have a conviction-oriented approach. My reputation has been damaged. I have suffered a loss of credibility and image. He doesn’t even need to apologise. Even if he says he withdraws the allegation, I won’t pursue this case,” the BJP leader told the court in response to the judge’s plea to withdraw his defamation case.
“Any defamation is a big blot for me. If he has proof, he should show. He has leveled wrong allegations against me. Either he proves his charges, or withdraws,” Mr. Gadkari added.
Mr. Kejriwal, however, refused, saying, “This is not a prestige issue.”
The AAP leader was last month sent to jail after he refused to furnish the bond needed in the defamation case. He had since been insisting that the court should not ask him for one and argued that he has committed no crime.
He finally had to furnish a personal bond on the orders of the Delhi High Court to secure his release.