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Delhi HC directs Sunita Kejriwal and social media platforms to delete video of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal addressing court in excise policy case

The PIL filed by attorney Vaibhav Singh was being heard by the court which called for the creation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into and lodge a First Information Report (FIR) about the "alleged conspiracy of recording and sharing the audio and video" of the court proceedings and "putting the life" of the trial court judge at "risk."

On 15th June, the Delhi High Court issued an order to Sunita Kejriwal, the wife of Aam Aadmi Party’s national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and many others to remove footage of the proceedings during which he addressed the court after his arrest in connection with the excise policy case. Judges Neena Bansal Krishna and Amit Sharma of the Division Bench further instructed social media platforms X, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to delete similar content when it is brought to their notice.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by attorney Vaibhav Singh was being heard by the court which called for the creation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into and lodge a First Information Report (FIR) about the “alleged conspiracy of recording and sharing the audio and video” of the court proceedings and “putting the life” of the trial court judge at “risk.”

According to the plea, the accused “contemnor(s) and members/supporters of political parties” are Sunita Kejriwal, the wife of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and a few other individuals. They are charged with recording and posting the trial court proceedings on 28th March, the day Arvind Kejriwal (who had been produced) spoke before the Special Judge (Prevention of Corruption Act) Kaveri Baweja. The court also instructed the removal of the video from numerous other social media accounts. Moreover, Sunita Kejriwal, the social networking sites and other accounts that had uploaded the video were given notice by the bench.

The bench also sent notifications to Sunita Kejriwal and five other respondents, stating in an “ex parte ad interim order” that they are “restrained from reposting” the content in question. The court pronounced, “The order be communicated to them within 48 hours. Service be also effected through ordinary and electronic mode.” The petitioner was also asked to deliver to the respondents who had not been served.

As for the social networking platform Meta, attorney Tejas Karia argued that his client would have “nothing remaining” to erase if the original poster(s) took down the content. He alleged, “If they don’t take it down, we will take it down pursuant to court orders.” The court then highlighted that whenever it is brought to Meta’s “notice” that there is a “reposting of these identical content.” it will delete it. The matter will now be heard on 9th July.

“Several members of the Aam Aadmi Party including members of various other opposition parties have intentionally and deliberately and with the wilful intention to malign and manipulate the court proceedings done the audio and video recording. The above circumstance suggests that this was a preplanned conspiracy to record the audio/video recording of the court proceedings hatched by Mr Arvind Kejriwal and his party members. That Mr Kejriwal never before nor after, presented his case in court which shows that presenting his case on 28.03.2024 was part of some conspiracy to gain public sentiments,” the petition mentioned.

He added that numerous social media accounts affiliated with AAP members and other political parties began sharing, resharing, reposting and publishing the audio and video recordings of the trial court proceedings as soon as the hearing ended on 28th March. “Ms Sunita Kejriwal w/o Mr Arvind Kejriwal who is CM of Delhi and accused in the Delhi Liquor Policy Scam, reposted the audio recordings of the court proceedings, whereas recording of the court is prohibited Under High Court of Delhi Rules for video Conferencing for Courts 2021.”

The plea noted that the Delhi High Court Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts 2021, which expressly forbid unlawful recording of court proceedings, were broken by the unauthorised distribution of court recordings. It contended that the purpose of court hearings is to guarantee justice, fairness, and impartiality and yet, by encouraging sensationalism, misinterpretation, or manipulation of the recorded content, such illegal recordings have the potential to compromise the integrity of the legal system.

In order to determine who is in charge of purportedly recording and disseminating audio and video recordings of court proceedings, a comprehensive investigation is requested in the petition. “Punish the alleged contemnor as per the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, and impose strict penalties on the individuals found guilty of the violation of VC Rules 2021 of this Hon’ble Court, as per the provisions specified in law.” Furthermore, the petition asked that social media platforms be given instructions to halt the release of these illegal recordings in the future and to penalize any person or organization that disobeys the orders.

After Arvind Kejriwal disregarded nine summonses from the Enforcement Directorate, he was taken into custody on 21st March in relation to the excise policy scam. Subsequently, the Delhi High Court upheld the agency’s decision. Later, Arvind Kejriwal petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn his arrest. He was given temporary relief by the Supreme Court in May, allowing him to campaign for his Aam Aadmi Party in the Lok Sabha election for a period of 21 days. On 2nd June, he turned himself in to the Tihar Jail officials per the apex court’s directive.

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