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PM Modi remark row: Gujarat High Court directs Ahmedabad court to hear Arvind Kejriwal, Sanjay Singh pleas within 10 days 

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The High Court of Gujarat has directed an Ahmedabad court to transfer to a different court, the petitions filed by national convenor of Aam Aadmi Party & Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal  and AAP MP Sanjay Singh against the summons issued in a defamation case.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Samir Dave on Tuesday directed the Principal Sessions Judge of Ahmedabad to decide within 10 days, the matter related to the defamation case filed by the Gujarat University over the alleged derogatory and sarcastic remarks made by the two AAP leaders against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The High Court further permitted both Kejriwal and Singh to seek adjournment in the metropolitan court on August 31. The Gujarat University has undertaken to grant its consent for the same.

The Counsel appearing for the AAP leaders pressed for early hearing on revision applications and submitted that Court No 16 in the city sessions court, which was an in-charge court, did not agree to prepone the hearing and rejected their request last week. 

He said the in-charge court refused preponement on the grounds that the matter required a long hearing and it should be conducted by a regular court, the presiding officer of which was on leave till September 15.

The counsel further contended that the metropolitan court has recorded the plea of both the accused through their lawyers and fixed August 31 for recording of evidence, practically commencing the trial.

The Counsel appearing for Kejriwal further submitted that there were various grounds to challenge the metropolitan court’s decision on GU’s defamation complaint. 

He said the varsity was a State under Article 12 of the Constitution and hence, it cannot be said to be a person who was defamed. GU submitted that it did not have any problem with early hearing of the revision applications of the accused and also did not insist on their presence in the court.

On April 17, a Gujarat court had issued summons to Kejriwal and Singh in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Gujarat University for making derogatory statements in connection with the controversy regarding the academic degree of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Jayeshbhai Chovatiya passed the order, while dealing with a criminal complaint filed by the Gujarat University through its Registrar Dr. Piyush M.Patel.

The complaint was filed against Kejriwal and Singh under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The Court found a prima facie case against them.

Talking about the certain statements made by Kejriwal and Singh, after the Gujarat High Court order quashed and setting aside the 2016 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the Gujarat University to provide “information regarding degrees in the name of Mr. Narendra Damodar Modi” to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The complaint accused them of making sarcastic and defamatory statements in press conferences and on Twitter handles targeting the university over PM Modi’s degree.

The varsity also mentioned a few statements made by Kejriwal in its complaint, which include “If a degree is there and it is correct then why the degree is not being given… Why Gujarat and Delhi University are not giving degrees? The degree is not being given because the degree may be fake… If the Prime Minister studied from Delhi University, Gujarat University, then Gujarat University should celebrate that our boy has become the Prime Minister of the country. …it is trying to hide his degree…[University] put his all to prove a fake degree (of PM) as right.”

The Complaint further stated that immediately after the Gujarat High Court’s order, Kejriwal made defamatory statements against Gujarat University in a press conference despite being aware of the fact that the Prime Minister’s degree has been published on the University’s website long back.Importantly, the University also put up a contention in its complainant that CM Kejriwal made the statements in his “personal capacity” and “not affairs of the State”.

Agreeing with this submission, the Court ordered to delete words ‘Chief Minister’ from Kejriwal’s name in the cause title of the case.

Further, the Court also observed that prima facie, both Kejriwal and Singh appeared to have targeted the Gujarat University as the words uttered by them were sarcastic and meant to target the Gujarat University’s image in the minds of the people.

It observed that it was natural that due to the statements of the accused who know the credit of Gujarat University, all the people who do not know Gujarat University will develop distrust towards it.

The Court also opined that if the political office bearers, instead of fulfilling their duty to their people, do any work directly or indirectly for their personal enmity or selfishness, to harm the opponents or the same person, and if they utter any such words, those words will be considered a violation of the trust placed by the people and the words uttered will be considered personal.

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