The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea seeking to restrain the Aam Aadmi Party government from paying Rs 1.22 crore to veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani for appearing on behalf of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a defamation suit filed against him by Union Minister Arun Jaitley.
Jethmalani, expelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been appearing for Kejriwal in the Rs 10-crore civil defamation suit filed by Jaitley against Kejriwal and five other AAP leaders for accusing him (Jaitley) of financial bungling in the Delhi and Distric Cricket Association (DDCA).
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said the issue raised through the petition was already pending before the Lieutenant Governor.
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"If the authorities concerned are not taking any action against the issue raised by you, then only you can move the court. The LG is already seized of the issue. Therefore, there is no need of interference by this court," the bench said.
It further said this petition was totally a "waste" of the court's time. Sensing the mood of the court, the petitioner and advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava wished to withdraw his plea, which was allowed by the court.
The plea sought direction to the Delhi government and LG to refrain from making any payment from public money towards the December 1, 2016, invoice or any other bill raised by Jethmalani towards professional services rendered to Kejriwal in the defamation case.
It also sought a direction to the Delhi government and LG to immediately withdraw the December 21, 2016, file which approved the legal bills of Jethmalani. The petition also sought formulation and implementation of stringent rules and regulations to restrain the government departments from making any payment from public money towards any private litigation cost incurred by public representatives or public officials in their private capacities.
Earlier, Jethmalani had hit out at Jaitley, alleging that the row over the Delhi government's move to clear his bills has been "instigated" by the Union Finance Minister as "he is afraid of my cross-examination".
He had also said it was the government's duty to defend the Chief Minister. The senior advocate had said he would defend Kejriwal in the defamation case without charging any fee if the Chief Minister could not afford to pay him.
Earlier, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had directed the General Administration Department to clear Jethmalani's bills. Kejriwal had earlier defended his government's move, suggesting Jaitley had filed the case after he raised the issue of alleged corruption in the DDCA when the BJP leader was at the helm of it.