Author: Navika Kumar, TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 4, 2017
Even as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is fighting a high-powered legal battle with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, who has sued him for civil and criminal defamation, Times Now has discovered that the Delhi government wants the taxpayer to pay the cost of Kejriwal's defence, running into crores. Kejriwal's counsel, Ram Jethmalani, has raised a bill of Rs 3.42 crore for his services so far.
According to documents accessed by Times Now, the bill raised by Jethmalani on December 1, 2016, quotes Rs 1 crore retainership for representing Kejriwal and an additional Rs 22 lakh per appearance. Jethmalani has made 11 appearances so far, leading to a total of Rs 3.42 crore, even before the cross examination stage is over.
The documents show that deputy CM Manish Sisodia wrote on a file on December 6, 2016, following the bill raised by Jethmalani's office, that it be cleared because the matter was linked to CBI raids on the CM's office on December 15, 2015, wherein several files were seized.
The file goes on to say that "the Chief Minister made statements in the media explaining the stand of the government on such raids. Defamation cases, criminal as well as civil, were filed against the CM pursuant to the statements made in his official capacity".
The file then went to the litigation branch of the law department in the Delhi government which, on December 7, 2016, said the law department could not give any approval on the matter, and instead approval of the administrative department whose files had been seized by the CBI were needed to clear these payments.
Clearances from the finance department and Delhi lieutenant governor's office were also needed, it added.
In response, Sisodia on December 21 wrote that "this file need not be sent to the LG for his approval. Instead it should be sent to the concerned administrative department, the GAD (general administrative department)" which should give its compliance at the earliest, "preferably within a day".
The file, approved by the CM, was then cleared the same day. This was then approved by the minister in-charge of GAD, Gopal Rai, on February 27, this year, before being sent to the LG, presumably for a post-facto approval.
A legal analyst pointed out that Jaitley and Kejriwal were both fighting the case in their personal capacities. If Kejriwal had wanted to turn it into a matter involving the Delhi CM, he should have invoked Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code, the analyst added.
Section 80 provides for sending a notice to the government or a public officer if one wants to institute a suit against the government or against the public officer in respect of any act purporting to be done by such public officer in his official capacity until the expiration of two months.
The object of the notice is to give the secretary of state or the public officer an opportunity to reconsider his legal position and to make amends or afford restitution without recourse to a court of law, which Kejriwal chose not to do.