The Gujarat High Court on Thursday issued notice to the Gujarat University on pleas filed by by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) colleague, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, in relation to a defamation complaint pertaining to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees.
A bench of Justice J C Joshi sought a response from the varsity by issuing notice to it through its registrar Piyush Patel.
The bench, however, declined a plea by senior advocate Rebecca John appearing for the petitioners, to stay the proceedings.
The court said the parties may tell the trial court that they have filed a plea in the High Court. If the other side insist for hearing, the petitioners may approach the High Court, the bench said.
On September 14, a sessions court had rejected a plea Kejriwal and Singh, against the summons issued against them in a criminal defamation case filed by state-run Gujarat University.
Both the accused faced defamation complaint for questioning the University for not publishing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's academic degrees.
Gujarat University (GU) through its registrar Patel has filed the criminal defamation case against the two AAP leaders for making "sarcastic and derogatory" statements against the varsity with regard to PM Modi's degree. The varsity has said that Kejriwal and Singh's alleged derogatory statements in the press "tarnished its goodwill image."
After the complaint, a metropolitan court had issued summons to both the leaders for their appearance. The leaders challenged the summons in the sessions court.
In an affidavit filed in the sessions court, GU's registrar Patel stated that he was "an individual member of the collection of persons who are defamed and thus the present complaint is maintainable." The affidavit stated that Patel was authorised to file the case by the vice-chancellor himself.
"More particularly Dr Piyush M, Patel, the complainant herein has also submitted an Authority Letter from the Vice-chancellor of Gujarat University giving the complainant the authority to file the complaint. Thus when the accused person has defamed Gujarat University, the complainant herein being the Registrar, on being authorised can file a complaint," GU has stated in the affidavit.
Kejriwal on his part contended that being a government body established under the statute, the varsity couldn't have filed a criminal defamation case against its citizens.
The two AAP leaders held a press conference in Delhi on April 1 and 2 over the academic degrees of PM Modi.
Their event was held a day after Gujarat High Court quashed the chief information commission's order directing GU to provide post graduate degree of PM Modi under Right to Information Act (RTI) to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The court not only quashed Kejriwal's plea, it also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on him.
In August, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the trial in a criminal defamation case filed by the Gujarat University against Kejriwal and Singh over comments made in connection with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree.