Waste of time: Delhi High Court rejects plea challenging use of public money to pay Ram Jethmalani

Nearly a fortnight ago, several reports had claimed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wanted the government to foot the bills raised by his lawyer Ram Jethmalani in defending him in the defamation case filed by Arun Jaitley.

The Delhi High Court has refused to entertain a plea that sought to restrain the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government from paying Rs 1.22 crore to Ram Jethmalani for appearing on behalf of Arvind Kejriwal in a defamation case filed by Arun Jaitley.

The court said the issue of payment to Ram Jethmalani is already pending before the Lieutenant Governor, and called the petition a "waste" of court's time.

Nearly a fortnight ago, several reports had claimed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wanted the government to foot the bills raised by his lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

Ram Jethmalani, one of the biggest names in the legal fraternity, had reportedly charged Rs 1 crore as retainership and Rs 22 lakh per appearance.

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HERE IS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CONTROVERSY AND WHAT THE COURT SAID:

  1. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani had reportedly sent Arvind Kejriwal bills to the tune of Rs 3.4 crore for representing him in the defamation case filed against the Delhi chief minister by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
  2. It was reported that Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had signed the bills and forwarded them to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal for clearance.
  3. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra today said the issue raised through the petition was already pending before the Lieutenant Governor.
  4. "If the authorities concerned are not taking any action against the issue raised by you, then you can move the court. The LG is already seized of the issue. Therefore, there is no need of interference by this court," the bench said, and called the petition a "waste" of court's time.
  5. Petitioner Alakh Alok Srivastava, also an advocate, withdrew the plea. The petition sought direction to the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor to refrain from making any payment from public money towards the December 1, 2016 invoice or any other bill raised by Ram Jethmalani towards professional services rendered to Arvind Kejriwal in the defamation case.
  6. The petition also sought a direction to the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor to immediately withdraw the December 21, 2016 file which approved the legal bills of Ram Jethmalani.
  7. The Delhi government has defended bearing the legal expenses of the defamation case and said that the case Arvind Kejriwal is fighting against Arun Jaitley is a public and not a private issue. "There were allegations of corruption in DDCA. Our government formed a committee to probe this and free cricket from corruption," Manish Sisodia said.
  8. The Opposition, however, attacked the Delhi chief minister for using public money to pay bills of Ram Jethmalani. "There are seven defamation cases against him (Kejriwal) as far as I know. This may total up to Rs 100 crore. Will he make the people of Delhi pay the Rs 100 crore," Union minister and BJP leader Prakash Javadekar had asked.
  9. Following the controversy, Ram Jethmalani had offered to fight the case for Arvind Kejriwal for free. "I charge only the rich, but for the poor I will work for free. If the Delhi (government) doesn't pay or he (Kejriwal) cannot pay, I will appear for free," Ram Jethmalani said.
  10. Ram Jethmalani had hit out at Arun Jaitley, alleging that the row over the Delhi government's move to clear his bills has been "instigated" by the Finance Minister as "he is afraid of my cross-examination".

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(with inputs from PTI)