A Delhi court today warned Arvind Kejriwal and three other AAP leaders that it would initiate "coercive process" if they fail to appear before it on May 24 in a criminal defamation complaint filed against them by Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's lawyer son Amit Sibal.
Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Sunil Kumar Sharma told advocate Rahul Mehra, who appeared for Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Prashat Bhushan and Shazia Ilmi, that he should ensure that the accused appear before him on the next date of hearing.
"Ensure that everybody is present on the next date (of hearing) otherwise I will initiate coercive process," the court told Mehra and fixed the matter for hearing on May 24.
The court also imposed a cost of Rs 2,500 each on Sisodia, Bhushan and Ilmi while allowing their plea seeking exemption from personal appearance for today.
It, however, allowed the exemption application of Kejriwal for today and did not impose any cost on him on the ground that he himself is contesting the Lok Sabha poll.
All the four accused did not appear before the court today on the ground that they were busy in campaigning for the Lok Sabha election.
The court, on March 15, had imposed a cost of Rs 2,500 each on Kejriwal and Sisodia for their failure to appear before it.
It had imposed the cost on Kejriwal and Sisodia while accepting their pleas seeking exemption from personal appearance for the day only.
The court had also released Bhushan and Ilmi, who had appeared before it on March 15, on an undertaking that they would appear before it on each and every date of hearing.
The court had on July 24 last year summoned Kejriwal, Sisodia, Bhushan and Ilmi on the criminal defamation complaint filed by Amit in which he had alleged that the AAP leaders had said that he had taken advantage of his father's position to represent a telecom company in court cases here.
During the proceeding today, advocate Mehra moved applications seeking exemption from personal appearance for the day for the four accused.
He said that due to the Lok Sabha election, the AAP leaders were busy in campaigning and the court should fix the matter after May 16, when the election result will be declared.
"These are national polls. They (accused) are not evading the process of law...they are not are absconders," Mehra said.
Advocate Mohit Mathur, who appeared for Amit, opposed the pleas of the accused saying they should have appeared before the court.
"Kejriwal and these leaders should have planned their campaigning so that they could appear before the court of law," Mathur said.
Mathur also said that accused were given almost five weeks time on the last date of hearing on March 15 but still they did not appear before the court.
"They are not allowing the proceedings to proceed," he said.
The court, however, said that the exemption application of Kejriwal could be considered as he is himself contesting the Lok Sabha election.
"Exemption application of Arvind Kejriwal is allowed without any cost. The exemption application of other three accused is allowed with cost," the magistrate said.