The Delhi High Court on Monday listed for hearing on August 3 a plea by city Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot against BJP MLA Vijender Gupta for the latter’s “defamatory” tweets against him over procurement of DTC buses, and counselled the parties to settle the dispute between them like gentlemen.
Gahlot has filed a defamation lawsuit against Gupta over tweets allegedly published by the latter claiming irregularities in the procurement of 1,000 low floor buses by the Delhi Transport Corporation.
“Like gentlemen, put an end to it. These are elected representatives. These are honourable gentlemen,” said a division bench headed by Jutice Siddharth Mridul, who was hearing the AAP leader’s appeal against a single judge order declining him interim relief in the matter.
The senior lawyer for Gahlot said Gupta should take down the defamatory tweets accusing the minister of corruption.
While the advocate for the BJP politician defended his conduct, the court asked him if he can “establish the truth” at this stage when the trial over his claims was pending.
The bench, also comprising Justice Gaurang Kanth, deferred the hearing to enable the parties to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement, saying, “Sit and talk to each other. Put an end to this.”
Gahlot had approached the high court in 2021 with his civil defamation lawsuit against Gupta, and sought Rs 5 crore in damages from the BJP leader for making “scandalous” statements alleging irregularities in the procurement of 1,000 low floor buses by DTC.
He had earlier argued that Gupta made relentless tweets doubting his integrity over the purchase of buses in spite of a high-powered committee having given him a clean chit.
Besides seeking a direction restraining Gupta from posting/ tweeting/ publishing any defamatory or scandalous or factually incorrect tweets/ posts on social media platforms and giving interviews, writing articles and blogs in respect of purchase of low floor buses, the suit before the single judge also sought removal of “defamatory” content against him from social media.
On March 7, 2022, the single judge had refused to restrain Gupta from publishing or tweeting anything relating to the procurement the buses, and said no one should be prevented from expressing their opinion, including suspicions or doubts on government’s transaction of business, unless blatant lies and falsehood adversely affecting national interest are disseminated through social media platforms.
The single judge had stated it cannot be overlooked that both the parties are public figures and members of the Legislative Assembly, and an interim order will amount to restraining Gupta from raising issues of public importance.
In September last year, another division bench of the high court had asked their lawyers to explore the possibility of arriving at a settlement, while observing that defamation cases involving political leaders are “only posturing”.