The Delhi High Court Thursday issued summons to the BJP and its parliamentary board members on a civil defamation case filed by veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani over his expulsion from the party May 28. Jethmalani demanded Rs.50 lakh in damages jointly from the board members, barring BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He asked the court to declare the board’s decision “null and void”. Joint Registrar of Delhi High Court Himani Malhotra said: “Summons of suit be issued to defendants (BJP and its parliamentary board members).” The joint registrar asked the party and its members to file their response by Jan 30.
Appearing for Jethmalani, advocate Ashok Arora told the court that because he strongly supported Narendra Modi for the prime ministerial candidate for 2014 general elections, the board members expelled him as there were others in the party who were aspiring to become the PM candidate. Arora added: “Because I (Jethmalani) was supporting the name of Narendra Modi for the prime ministerial candidate, other party (board) members became aggrieved and had issued statements against me in media and other public fora and expelled me.”
The joint registrar asked counsel whether Jethmalani had tried to reconcile the issue with the party, to which the advocate said “many times”. Jethmalani alleged that the board’s decision to expel him was driven by “malice and desire to defame”. “All proceedings leading to it (decision) are ultra vires and unconstitutional… Some purported rules which are presented have not been ever framed,” the defamation suit said. “The proceedings are without observing elementary principles of fair play and opportunity,” he added. The parliamentary board is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s highest decision-making body and has 12 members: Rajnath Singh, L.K. Advani, Vajpayee, Modi, Murli Manohar Joshi, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Ramlal and T.C. Gehlot. Vajpayee did not attend the board meetings while Modi was not a member then. Jethmalani was expelled from the primary membership of the party for six years for openly attacking Swaraj and Jaitley.