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‘If You Reduce Public Debate You May Have To Face Consequences,’ Says SC To Manish Sisodia

Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi, filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the Gauhati High Court’s decision to reject his request to have an Assam chief minister’s criminal defamation case against him dismissed. The Supreme Court responded, saying, “If you reduce the public debate to this level, you have to face the consequences.” The high court had rejected Sisodia’s petition, which asked for the high court to quash the defamation lawsuit Sarma had brought after being accused of corruption by the deputy chief minister of Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader abandoned his appeal against the high court’s order from November 4 after the Supreme Court indicated its unwillingness to consider it.

Sarma has launched a criminal defamation action against Sisodia for making “baseless” accusations of corruption in relation to the sale of PPE kits to the National Health Mission (NHM) officials for “higher than market rates” during the first wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The AAP leader alleged that Sarma had sent the supply orders to his wife’s company while serving as the state’s health minister in 2020. Sarma has refuted these charges.

On Monday, the matter was heard by a bench made up of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka.

Sisodia’s attorney, senior advocate A. M. Singhvi, claimed that the AAP leader never claimed that any money had been taken.

The bench said, “If you reduce public discourse to this level, you have to face the consequences,” and added that the petitioner ought to have extended an unqualified apology sooner.

The petitioner had never claimed that money was taken, according to Singhvi, who also claimed that one cannot use the authority to “browbeat” others.

The top court declared, adding since the accusations were made during the pandemic, “You have to face the consequences.”

The supreme court noted that the petitioner was making accusations rather than understanding what the nation was going through during the pandemic.

Later, Singhvi withdrew the petition.

Following the hearing, the Assam government’s attorney, Nalin Kohli, stated, “Essentially, a court needs to see whether a prima facie case exists with regard to false imputations which are per se defamatory.”

The high court stated in its ruling that Sisodia had failed to establish any grounds for the proceedings in the case, which is up for resolution in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup, in Guwahati.

The high court had taken note of Sarma’s objection that Sisodia had made a defamatory comment about the Assam chief minister at a news conference in New Delhi on June 4 of this year, accusing him of engaging in corruption.

It took note of Sarma’s accusation that Sisodia had accused him of engaging in corruption by awarding a government contract for the purchase of PPE kits to his wife’s business.

While such PPE kits were allegedly obtained from other sources for Rs 600 each, it was claimed that Sarma’s wife’s business charged Rs 990 for each kit.

The chief judicial magistrate had summoned Sisodia in August of this year after finding enough evidence to proceed against him, the high court had remarked.

The wife of the Assam chief minister, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, filed a defamation lawsuit against the Delhi deputy chief minister on June 21 for the same accusation.

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