SC puts on hold defamation cases against Kejriwal

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed trial court proceedings in two criminal defamation cases against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The AAP convenor has urged the Court to de-criminalise defamation on the ground that the penal provisions unreasonably curtailed the freedom of speech and even went beyond reasonable restrictions.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant ordered for suspension of the ongoing proceedings before trial court, relying upon April 17 order on Kejriwal's another petition relating to other defamation cases faced by him here.

Kejriwal was being tried by Delhi courts in as many as four cases filed by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal’s son Amit, Sheila Dikshit’s ex-political secretary Pawan Khera and advocate Surender Sharma. Kejriwal had made different statements accusing them of corruption.

The court had on April 17 stayed proceedings in two cases.He challenged the Constitutional validity of Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal, mandating two years prison term on conviction. His petition contended “A criminal complaint, even without a possible imprisonment sentence, would have a chilling effect, stifling the exercise of citizens’ rights to free speech.”

According to Kejriwal, defamation should remain only a civil wrong and its position in the IPC trampled upon his fundamental right to freedom of speech.

The court had earlier sought the Centre’s response stand on the plea made by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and others for de-criminalising defamation.

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