Defamation case: Delhi court exempts CM Kejriwal from appearance today, directs him to appear before court on Feb 29

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New Delhi: The Rouse Avenue Court on Wednesday exempted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from personal appearance and directed him to appear before it on February 29, 2024 in a criminal defamation case.
Arvind Kejriwal was supposed to appear today in Rouse Avenue Court following summons issued against him in a defamation case.

Kejriwal, through counsel, moved an exemption plea today, stating that he is busy with a budget session. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Tanya Bamniyal allowed the exemption plea and directed Kejriwal to appear before the court on February 29, 2024.

The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to quash a summons order issued by the trial court in a criminal defamation case registered against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for retweeting a video of YouTuber and social media influencer Dhruv Rathi in May 2018 and said, at times, it is difficult to erase the reputational injury from public memory, as the tweets may be deleted but perceptions are difficult to be deleted from the minds of the community.

Justice Swarna Kanta, while passing an order, held that retweeting content that is allegedly defamatory on the Twitter account and projecting it to be as if his own views will prima facie attract liability under Section 499 of IPC for the purpose of issuance of summons.

Therefore, this Court finds no infirmity with the impugned orders passed by the learned trial court as well as the learned session court. Accordingly, the present petition stands dismissed, said Justice Swarna Kanta Sharma.
In today’s digital age, the dynamics of law change, as exemplified by the present case, where this Court has been posed with a situation where reputational harm has been alleged by the complainant through a repost in cyberspace.

In this evolving digital age, physical damage to someone’s reputation is not the only possibility but it is the cyber world that has now taken over the real world, where if any defamatory statement is made, the effect of reputational harm is amplified. In the realm of defamation, statements made in the physical world may resemble a mere whisper, but when echoed in the cyber domain, the impact magnifies exponentially.

On May 6, 2018, one Dhruv Rathee, i.e., the original author of the impugned or alleged defamatory content, uploaded a video on YouTube, wherein, inter alia, certain allegations were made against the respondent, which has been referred to as ‘First Offending Publication’ in the petition.

On May 7, 2018, Dhruv Rathee published on his Twitter account an allegation that the Information and Technology Cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party had attempted to bribe a person to defame Dhruv Rathee and he had drawn a reference to the Uniform Resource Locator of the first impugned publication, which has now been termed ‘Second Offending Publication’ in the petition.

On May 7, 2018, the petitioner herein, Arvind Kejriwal reposted, i.e., retweeted, the second offending publication of Dhruv Rathee. On February 28, 2019, a complaint was filed by the complainant/respondent Vikas Sankritayan against the petitioner, Arvind Kejriwal, for initiating proceedings against him for the commission of offences punishable under Section 499/500 of the IPC.

In the matter, the trial court summoned Arvind Kejriwal as an accused by the ACMM with summoning order dated July 17, 2019. Against the trial court order, Kejriwal had moved the High Court, seeking quashing of the summons issued against him as an accused in the case.

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