The Delhi High Court Monday asked the suspended secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Ashok Arora to highlight the alleged defamatory statements made by various bar members against him, causing him mental torture and harassment.
Justice Mukta Gupta, who was conducting the proceedings through video conferencing, asked Arora to show the cause of action against all the defendants.
“Tell me how defamation is made out in this. You can claim defamation in your previous suit also,” the court said, adding that he identify the defamatory statements made by each of the defendants individually.
The court listed for August 27, the suit in which he has claim damages of Rs 5 crore from 19 office bearers of the SCBA, including its president Dushyant Dave and vice president Kailash Vasudev as also its former acting secretary.
The suit also seeks to restrain them from defaming Arora by issuing, publishing and circulating any such material in any form.
Arora has also filed another suit in the high court challenging his suspension from the post of secretary of SCBA.
The court had on July 3, issued summons to SCBA and Bar Council of India (BCI) in the suit and a notice on the application filed by Arora seeking to stay the May 8 resolution passed by the Executive Committee of the SCBA by which he was suspended.
The defamation suit claimed, “In fact all of them in conspiracy with each other and a few other members of SCBA have humiliated and caused great mental torture to the complainant. They humiliated, trolled and obstructed him from performing his duties as reflected in the various Whatsapp messages and emails.”
However, the counsel representing Dave contended that the defamation suit was not maintainable as the first prayer was not for declaring the statements as defamatory but it is claiming damages.
Senior advocates Arvind Nigam and Rajiv Nayar, representing Dave, said the claim of mental torture caused to Arora due to his suspension was part of the first cause of action for which he has filed the earlier suit but he did not claim damages in it.
Arora submitted that defamation has to be filed against individuals and he could not claim defamation in his previous suit.
The Executive Committee of the SCBA had passed a resolution on May 8, suspending Arora from the post of secretary with immediate effect in a meeting held through an online conference.
The suspension had come a day after Arora had called an emergent general meeting (EGM) of the lawyers’ body on May 11 to deliberate on the agenda for removing senior advocate Dushyant Dave from the post of SCBA President.
The Executive Committee had also cancelled the proposed EGM and decided to set up a three-member panel to look into the allegations against Arora, an SCBA official had said.
The official had said the decision to suspend Arora was taken by the majority of participating lawyers.
Differences appeared among the top office bearers in the SCBA over the stand taken by the lawyers’ body on a “resolution” concerning statements made by Justice Arun Mishra about Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the International Judicial Conference-2020.
Shortly after Dave had issued the February 25 “resolution”, allegedly signed by several members of the lawyers’ body expressing concern over Justice Mishra’s statements, Arora had claimed that “no resolution has been passed” as he did not sign the statement released to the media.
Arora had then said, “There was no executive council or general body meeting of the Association. The President has taken an arbitrary dictatorial and irresponsible stand. He cannot speak on behalf of the SCBA without calling a general body meeting or meeting of the executive council on such a serious issue”.
Arora had said that all the communication to the media is to be sent through the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who is General Secretary of the SCBA.
The lawyers’ body in its resolution had said, “The SCBA expresses its strong reservations on the statement and condemns the same strongly. The SCBA believes that the independence of the judiciary is the basic structure under the Constitution of India and that such independence be preserved in letter and spirit.”
On February 22, Justice Mishra had praised Prime Minister Modi, while delivering the vote of thanks at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference 2020 – “Judiciary and the Changing World” and termed him as an “internationally acclaimed visionary” and a “versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally”.