New Delhi, Sep 20 (PTI) Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, who has filed a civil defamation case against BJP's Vijender Gupta for his statements on alleged irregularities in procurement of 1,000 low floor buses by the Delhi Transport Corporation, on Monday submitted before the Delhi High Court that while he was open to criticism with respect to his work, nobody has the right to “criticise his reputation”.
Justice Asha Menon was told by Gahlot's counsel that the allegations of corruption levelled by BJP MLA against him are baseless and unsubstantiated.
“This a general perception (that politicians are corrupt). You (Gupta) are giving them (the public) fodder without any basis. I am open to criticism but you can't criticise my reputation. You don't have the right to say that I am corrupt without any basis,” argued senior counsel Manish Vashisht, appearing for the Delhi minister.
The counsel contended that the BJP leader made “well-calculated”, scandalous and false tweets, without any material, to allege a multi-crore scam in the purchase of DTC buses.
“He is giving a judgement. If your story has some semblance of truth, have you filed any document to show that the lowest bid was not considered?”, he questioned.
Gupta was also accused of “taking a summersault” and misinterpreting the report of the LG-appointed high-powered committee on the issue.
“The committee report doesn't say 'open loot' but 'no criminal misconduct attributable to public officers'. You gave it your own interpretation,” the senior counsel added.
The senior lawyer urged that no further defamatory tweets should be made by Gupta in view of the pendency of the case.
“They have given a statement to the division bench,” the judge said as the matter was listed for further hearing on September 24.
Counsel appearing for Gahlot said that an oral commitment has been made before the division bench.
On August 28, a division bench headed by Justice Vipin Sanghi had refused to interfere with the court's order declining to pass an ex-parte interim order on the removal of allegedly defamatory statements and posts shared by Gupta on social media against Gahlot.
The counsel for Gupta had then given an oral assurance to the bench that no tweet or press statement would be issued in relation to the issue of procurement of DTC buses.
On August 27, the single judge had issued summons to Gupta in Gahlot's defamation suit and said that no ex-parte injunction was called for at this stage.
“...in the present case, prima facie, no personal allegations appear to have been specifically made against the plaintiff (Gahlot) except to the extent of saying that the transaction appears to be a scam . At this stage, therefore, no ex-parte injunction is called for,” it had said.
It had granted 30 days to the BJP leader to respond to the suit as well as the application for an interim order.
Earlier, Gahlot's counsel had argued that Gupta, his political rival, made unabated tweets doubting the integrity of the minister in relation to the purchase of the low floor buses, in spite of a clean-chit being given by a high-powered committee.
In his civil defamation suit, Gahlot has sought Rs five crore damages from Gupta for allegedly making scandalous statements relating to irregularities in the procurement of low floor buses.
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 also sought removal of the allegedly defamatory content from social media.
On July 12, Gupta had written to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal demanding a CBI inquiry into the alleged scam involving procurement of 1,000 low floor buses by the Delhi Transport Corporation.
A three-member committee that probed the matter has recommended scrapping the tender of the AMC (annual maintenance contract) of buses finding various "lapses", he had said.
There has been "irrefutable evidence of irregularities and violations in the AMC bid", he had stated, alleging "criminal conspiracy and connivance" was responsible for it. PTI ADS