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A journalist has been exempted by the Delhi High Court from appearing personally before a trial court adjudicating the complaints of two former municipal councillors, accusing him of defaming them. The journalist, working with media house Cobra Post, faces criminal defamation complaint for purportedly exposing, through a sting operation, the two former councillors demanding bribe for allowing illegal constructions in their areas.

 Justice Manmohan exempted the journalist and its employer Cobra Post from personal appearance before the trial court, but made it clear that they would have to appear before it through their counsel.

The high court’s interim order came on two separate pleas by Cobra Post and its reporter Kumar Ashish, seeking quashing of the criminal defamation complaint against them. On their pleas, the high court also issued notices to the Delhi government and former councillors Ajit Singh Tokas and Ravi Prakash Sharma and sought their responses by August 9.

 “Notice issued to all respondents. The petitioners are exempted from personal appearance, however, (are) directed to appear through their counsel before the trial court. Let the trial go on,” Justice Manmohan said.

 In the sting conducted by Cobra Post in December last year, exposing the alleged builder-councillor nexus to allow illegal constructions in the city, a total of eight councillors, six from BJP and two from Congress, had figured.

 A television news channel had also telecast the video in which the councillors across party line are purportedly seen demanding money for allowing illegal constructions. The two councillors had filed criminal defamation complaints in separate magisterial courts accusing the reporter of defaming them.

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