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Defamation case: Gadkari, Digvijay trade charges in Delhi court

NEW DELHI: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and veteran Congress leader Digvijay Singh traded charges in a Delhi court which was hearing a defamation complaint filed by the BJP leader against the Congressman who stood by his statement.

The proceedings began with Gadkari ruling out any possibility of reaching any compromise with Singh, saying he would not withdraw his complaint unless the Congress leader takes back his statement of 2012 on his alleged business links with the then MP Ajay Sancheti.

“I have nothing to do with Sancheti. If he (Singh) knows anything about it and gives any proof, I am ready to give all my shares to him. Otherwise he should take his statement back. My reputation is very high. Credibility is the biggest strength of a politician,” Gadkari told Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha on being asked if there was any possibility for compromise in the matter.

Sticking to his stand, Singh, who has been summoned as an accused in the case, said, “In my life I have never withdrawn my statement.”

The criminal defamation complaint was filed by Gadkari in 2012 against Singh, who had alleged that the former BJP chief had business links with the then MP Ajay Sancheti.

The magistrate had earlier issued bailable warrant against Singh for his failure to appear before it but later on cancelled it after he turned up and gave an undertaking to remain present in the court on Monday.

It had also asked Gadkari to remain present in the court, saying otherwise it would dismiss his complaint. Suggesting that the two politicians settle the matter, the magistrate said in public life one should rise above all this.

“You should rise above all this otherwise for how long will this go on,” the magistrate said, adding that if they do not want to compromise, the court will proceed with framing notice against the accused.

To this Singh said, the court can go ahead with its proceedings. During the hearing, Gadkari claimed that not even a single kg of coal has been extracted from the mine so where is the point of earning any profit by Sancheti.

“He (Singh) is talking non-sense,” Gadkari said. To this Singh asked, “Is (Gadkari) he defending Sancheti? I stand by my statement made earlier.” The court fixed November 24 for hearing further arguments on the point of framing notice.

During the hearing, senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, who appeared for Singh, argued that no charge was made out against his client as Gadkari had not stated in his statement recorded earlier in the court that he was present in the press conference when such averment was made.

“Gadkari does not say that the statement was made in his presence. No witness and reporter was produced in the court to say that they had heard Singh making such statement or that they recorded it,” the counsel said, adding that the media reports were inadmissible.

Senior advocate Pinky Anand, who appeared for Gadkari, said if Singh says he has not made any statement against the BJP leader, the client would withdraw the complaint.

Singh was earlier granted bail in the case by the court which, after finding "prima facie" evidence against him, had directed him to appear before it as accused for the offence punishable under section 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the IPC.

It was also alleged in the complaint that Singh had accused Gadkari of pocketing sum to the tune of Rs 490 crore in the coal block allocation to Sancheti.

Gadkari, in his statement recorded in the court, had denied having any business ties with Sancheti and had said that Singh levelled “totally false and defamatory” allegations against him to “give the impression that I have been responsible for allocation of the coal mines” to Sancheti.

The BJP leader, in his petition, had sought Singh’s prosecution under sections 499 and 500 of the IPC. In his petition, Gadkari had alleged that Singh had levelled defamatory allegations against him to lower his dignity and to malign and tarnish his image.