In a significant development on Monday (February 5), the Delhi High Court declined to dismiss a criminal defamation case lodged against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The case stemmed from Kejriwal’s retweet of a contentious video labeled ‘BJP IT Cell Part 2,’ originally uploaded by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma upheld the trial court’s decision to summon Arvind Kejriwal in response to the case. The single-bench judge emphasised that Kejriwal, with a substantial following on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), was cognisant of the repercussions of disseminating the video.
The court underlined, “Retweeting defamatory content does amount to defamation.”
“Retweeting Defamatory Content Attracts Action Under Section 499 Of IPC:” Delhi High Court refuses to quash summons against Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in defamation case for retweeting an allegedly defamatory video posted by YouTuber Dhruv Rathee in 2018.… pic.twitter.com/yGCmbxZmn8
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) February 5, 2024
The legal action was initiated by Vikas Sankrityan, also known as Vikas Pandey, a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the founder of the social media page ‘I Support Narendra Modi.’ Pandey expressed gratitude on X to his legal representatives for their support, stating, “HC rules against @ArvindKejriwal in the defamation case by me.”
The case revolves around allegations made in a video by Dhruv Rathee, asserting that Pandey served as the second-in-command of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT cell. Rathee alleged that Pandey offered ₹50 lakhs through an intermediary to Mahavir Prasad to retract accusations regarding the BJP IT cell’s dissemination of misinformation and fake news.
Prasad’s claims were aired in an interview with Rathee, titled ‘BJP IT Cell Insider Interview,’ published on Rathee’s YouTube channel on March 10, 2018. Subsequently, Rathee released another video on May 7, 2018, titled ‘BJP IT Cell Part 2,’ alleging that Prasad had been offered money.
On May 7, 2018, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal retweeted the video. Pandey argued that Kejriwal’s retweet contained false and defamatory allegations against him. He contended that Kejriwal, by virtue of his significant following, amplified the video’s claims without verifying their authenticity, thus reaching a broad national and international audience.
Despite Kejriwal’s efforts to challenge the summons issued by the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, both the Magistrate’s and Sessions Court’s orders were upheld. Kejriwal sought dismissal of the criminal defamation case, but his plea was quashed by the Delhi High Court.
With the High Court’s decision, Kejriwal faces limited options and may have to issue an apology to Pandey, a strategy he has employed previously to resolve legal disputes. Notably, Kejriwal had apologised to several individuals in the past, including Avtar Singh Bhadana, Bikram Singh Majithia, Nitin Gadkari, Kapil Sibal, and Lt. Arun Jaitley, in separate defamation cases.