Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday appeared virtually before a Delhi court as an accused in a criminal defamation complaint filed by Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Harjeet Singh Jaspal marked Gehlot’s presence, noting that a sessions court had allowed him to appear through videoconference.
The magistrate also noted that the sessions court had directed the magistrate not to insist on filing bail bonds on the first date hearing.
The ACMM then posted the matter for further hearing on August 21 after being told by senior advocate Vikas Pahwa, appearing for Shekhawat, that the sessions court had not stayed the proceedings before the magisterial court.
The sessions court had on August 1 refused to stay the proceedings in the complaint but allowed the Congress leader to appear before a metropolitan magistrate through videoconference.
The magisterial court had summoned the Congress leader on August 7 following Shekhawat’s complaint over Gehlot’s remarks linking him to the alleged Sanjivani scam.
The ‘scam’ is related to thousands of investors allegedly getting duped of about Rs 900 crore by the Sanjivani Credit Cooperative Society.
During a programme in Jaipur to virtually inaugurate new districts, Gehlot, who is recovering from leg injuries, said on Monday that he was scheduled to go to Phalodi to attend the ceremony but could not do so as he had to appear in the court through videoconference.
“I had to go to Phalodi today but there was a hearing. A defamation case was filed against me by Gajendra Shekhawat. I joined (the court proceedings) through video conference,” he said and repeated his allegations against the BJP leader.
He said that many victims have apprised him how they were duped of their hard-earned money by the Society.
Gehlot said he is ready to go to jail if this does any good to the victims.
Earlier, Special Judge of MPs/MLAs court M K Nagpal said Gehlot’s physical and personal appearance as an accused before the magisterial court on August 7, 2023, may not be practically convenient and necessary, but he saw no reason for staying the proceedings.
The sessions judge has listed the matter for further hearing on Gehlot’s application against the proceedings on August 19. It had directed Shekhawat to file his formal reply and detailed arguments on facts as well as on law, saying legal and factual issues being raised by both sides can only be considered and appreciated by the court after the arguments.
The judge directed the metropolitan magistrate not to insist on the physical presence of Gehlot on August 7, when the hearing is scheduled to take place before the magisterial court, and permit him to join the proceedings through VC.
Shekhawat, the Union Jal Shakti Minister and MP from Jodhpur, has alleged in his complaint before the metropolitan magistrate that Gehlot has been making defamatory remarks against him over the alleged scam and trying to tarnish his image and affect his political career.
The ACMM had said the accused “prima facie” made defamatory imputations against the complainant, knowing and intending to harm his reputation.
Shekhawat has alleged in his complaint that Gehlot, by way of press conferences, media reports and social media posts, publicly defamed him.