Court imposes cost on Patkar for seeking adjournment

Court imposes cost on Patkar for seeking adjournment

Activist Medha Patkar. DH File Photo

A Delhi Court on Monday imposed a cost of Rs 7,000 on Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar for seeking an adjournment for cross-examining a witness in a defamation case lodged against her by KVIC Chairman V K Saxena.

Patkar and Saxena, the Khadi Village and Industries Commission (KVIC) chief, have been embroiled in a legal battle since 2000 after she filed a suit against him for publishing advertisements against her and the NBA. Saxena was then the head of an Ahmedabad-based NGO, National Council for Civil Liberties.

Saxena, in turn, had filed two cases against her for making derogatory remarks against him on a TV channel and issuing a defamatory press statement against him.

Metropolitan Magistrate Nishant Garg passed the order after Patkar sought an adjournment in the case as her lawyer was not available to cross-examine a journalist who had deposed as a witness to support Saxena's case.

The court took exception to this observing that despite giving a date of convenience to the parties, Patkar's lawyer was absent.

"The counsel submits that the main lawyer will not be able to appear in the court today. Clearly, today's date was given at the convenience of parties. Even otherwise, the ground furnished for non-appearance is not accepted.

"Accordingly, the opportunity to cross-examine is deferred subject to payment of Rs 7,000 to the witness," the court said and posted the matter for hearing on November 26.

At the outset, one of the witnesses, Dilip Gohil, told the court that he had received a press note levelling allegations against Saxena in November 2000 from Patkar after which a news was published on a website.

He also told the court that he had enquired with the Saxena on the issue which he has outrightly refuted.

The witness told the court that Saxena has been associated with water conservation programme in Saurashtra as also with the rehabilitation of people living near the Narmada dam.

The court on July 9 had framed defamation charges against Patkar in a case lodged against her by Saxena in a complaint for allegedly defaming him on a TV news channel in 2006.

The court had framed the notice against the activist under sections 499/500 (defamation) of the IPC and fixed the matter for recording of Saxena's evidence. It entails a punishment of up to two years.

The notice was framed in one of the defamation cases filed against Patkar by Saxena in which she had allegedly made a statement in April 2006 on a panel discussion on a news channel claiming that Saxena had received civil contracts from Gujarat-based Sardar Sarovar Nigam, which manages the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The allegation was denied by Saxena.

Soon after the defamation complaint was lodged by Saxena against Patkar, Sardar Sarovar Nigam Ltd, in a letter to the Gujarat Police, had said that "V K Saxena, neither in his personal capacity, nor as President of National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), ever applied to the Nigam for the award of any civil contract and/or for any supply contract in the past, nor the Nigam has ever given any civil or any other contract to him or to his NGO-- NCCL."

The court has separated the three ongoing defamation cases -- one filed by Patkar and two by Saxena, considering that these were pending since long and needed to be expedited.

The activist, in her complaint, has alleged that she was defamed by an advertisement published by Saxena in November 2000 and the imputations made in the publication affected her reputation and fame and caused her immense harm. The court had on April 9 begun the cross-examination of Patkar in this case during which she had denied having deliberately concealed facts to tarnish Saxena's image.

Patkar and Saxena had earlier refused the suggestion of the court to settle the matter through mediation.