The Supreme Court, Thursday, stayed a circular by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi which mandated filing of defamation cases against media organisations for publishing or broadcasting news that damage reputation of the Chief Minister, his council of ministers and the government.
“Issue notice (to Kejriwal). However, as an interim measure we direct stay of the circular dated May 6, 2015 till further order of this court. Accordingly, it is stayed,” said a bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant.
Asking Kejriwal to explain why the directorate of information has issued “such circular”, the court sought a reply within six weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on July 8.
The court’s order came on an application filed by senior advocate Amit Sibal seeking vacation of the stay granted by the apex court on the proceedings before a trial court in a defamation case.
Sibal, who had filed a criminal defamation complaint against Kejriwal and others in the Patiala House court here, said that while the chief minister on one hand seeks setting aside of penal laws on defamation, on the other hand he has issued such a circular.
“It is noteworthy that the petitioner (Kejriwal) in his affidavite…Declares that he is working as chief minister of Delhi. However, the aforesaid circular directly contradicts and mitigates against the stand taken by him in the present petition,” the plea said, adding that the stay on the trial court proceedings against Kejriwal be vacated.
According to the circular issued by the city government’s information and publicity department, if any officer associated with the Delhi government feels that a published or aired item damages his or the government’s reputation, he should file a complaint with the principal secretary (home).
The circular also stated that a case can be filed after getting a go-ahead from the director (prosecution) and approval from the law department.