SC gives time to Kejriwal to settle dispute with complainant in defamation case

Top court had asked the trial court not to take up the defamation case involving Kejriwal till further orders.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday extended the stay on the defamation proceedings against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to allow time to the parties to explore the possibility of a settlement.

Kejriwal has challenged a Delhi High Court order upholding the summons issued to him in a criminal defamation case for retweeting an allegedly defamatory video circulated by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee in May 2018.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta said the interim stay already granted will stand extended till further orders.

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Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Kejriwal, said after the last hearing on March 11, the parties could not get in touch with each other to discuss a settlement.

Counsel for complainant Vikas Sankrityayan said nobody contacted them after the last hearing. The bench told the counsel that now Kejriwal’s side will get in touch with the complainant, and posted the matter for further hearing in the week commencing August 12.

On March 11, the top court had asked Kejriwal whether he wanted to tender an apology to the complainant.

Kejriwal had on February 26 told the apex court that he made a mistake by retweeting an allegedly defamatory video circulated by YouTuber Rathee related to the BJP IT Cell.

The counsel appearing for Sankrityayan has told the top court that Kejriwal may issue an apology on social media platforms like ‘X’ or Instagram for his action.

On February 26, the apex court, without issuing notice on Kejriwal’s plea challenging the high court order, had asked the complainant whether he wanted to close the matter in view of the petitioner accepting his mistake.

The top court had asked the trial court not to take up the defamation case involving Kejriwal till further orders.

In its February 5 verdict, the high court said re-posting libellous content would attract provisions of the defamation law.

It said a sense of responsibility has to be exhibited while retweeting content about which one does not have knowledge, and not doing so must invite penal, civil as well as tort action if the person retweeting it does not attach a disclaimer.

The high court, while refusing to quash the trial court’s 2019 order summoning Kejriwal, had said when a public figure tweets a defamatory post, the ramifications extend far beyond a mere whisper in someone’s ears.

It had said if the act of retweeting or reposting is allowed to be misused, as it is still considered a grey area of law, it will encourage people with ill intentions to misuse it and conveniently take a plea that they had merely retweeted a content.

The chief minister had asserted in the high court that the trial court failed to appreciate that his tweet was not intended to harm the complainant.

Sankrityayan claimed the YouTube video titled ‘BJP IT Cell Part II’ was circulated by Rathee, who lives in Germany, “wherein a number of false and defamatory allegations were made”.

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