Delhi CM fee to Jethmalani creates row

Delhi CM fee to Jethmalani creates row

 A row has erupted over the Delhi government’s move to pay eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani Rs 3.8 crore for appearing for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a defamation case filed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Jethmalani now says if Kejriwal cannot afford to pay his fee, he would not charge the politician to defend him in court.

The fresh controversy comes ahead of a bypoll and municipal polls this month and days after Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal ordered recovery of Rs 97 crore from the Aam Aadmi Party for advertisements placed by the state government in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines.

The matter landed in public domain after Delhi government sought permission from the lieutenant governor to clear the bills.

Baijal is understood to have sought Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar’s advice on that.
The point of contention is how the chief minister can make the government foot the bill for his "personal" court battle.

The BJP on Tuesday accused AAP chief  Kejriwal of using public money to foot his personal legal bills in defamation cases."It's illegal and immoral. Why should the people of Delhi pay for your (Kejriwal’s) sins? This is a dacoity and loot of their money and is completely unacceptable," Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said. In contrast, the minister said, Jaitley had paid the Rs 10 lakh stamp duty and cleared bills of his lawyers arguing the defamation suit against Kejriwal from his own pocket.

The charge was rebutted by the AAP, saying the case originated due to the actions of Kejriwal in his capacity as chief minister. Senior AAP leader Ashish Khetan said Jaitley filed the case not against Kejriwal as an individual. "The case is against the idea he embodies, it is against the people he represents," he said.

Jaitley has filed civil and criminal cases against Kejriwal and others over comments on him following Delhi government's action against alleged irregularities in Delhi & District Cricket Association.

Kejriwal has engaged a battery of lawyers, including Jethmalani.The lawyer has raised a bill of Rs 3.8 crore – Rs 1 crore as retainer fee and Rs 22 lakh for each appearance. AAP claimed Jethmalani had initially offered to represent Kejriwal free of cost but later started sending bills.

However, Jethmalani said he had offered his services free of cost but Kejriwal had insisted that he wanted to pay.

"I will certainly defend him even if he can't pay, but he said 'no, I want to pay, send us the bills'. So I have sent bills. If it is incumbent on me to support him and his livelihood I will support him." The Rajya Sabha MP took exception to LG Baijal reportedly seeking Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar's legal advice on the issue as, he said, they are all in Jaitley's control.

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