Mumbai: Bombay High Court on Thursday directed that the two defamation cases filed by Shiv Sena MLA Sureshdada Jain against social activist Anna Hazare, at Jalgaon and Mumbai, be clubbed and tried together.
Jain had lodged the two complaints in May 2003 after Hazare made certain allegations against him at a press conference.
Hazare had moved the High Court seeking clubbing of the two cases and a trial at Mumbai court.
"Both the complaints are similar. The complaint at Jalgaon was lodged on June 5, 2003 and after a court there issued notice, to cause inconvenience to Hazare, Jain lodged another complaint in Mumbai on June 23," Hazare's lawyer, advocate M J Bhatt, argued.
Jain's lawyer Nilesh Pawaskar, opposed the plea, saying that they were two different cases emanating from Hazare's defamatory statements on two occasions.
"On May 9, 2003 Hazare called Jain and other (state) ministers corrupt at the press conference at Nanded. On May 19 he held another press conference where he made direct allegation against Jain," Pawaskar said.
The division bench of Justices VM Kanade and AM Thipsay, however, held that both the cases seemed to be similar. "We also accept the apprehension of the applicant (Hazare) that if the cases are tried separately, the complainant (Jain) will come to know Hazare's defence and might use it against him in the second case in Mumbai," Justice Thipsay said.
The High Court further said it could not decide Hazare's another plea, namely, that Jalgaon case be quashed, as it would fall under the jurisdiction of the Aurangabad bench of the High Court.
The bench also asked Jain's lawyer why the newspaper, which published the reports of allegations, was not made accused. Pawaskar said the newspaper had published verbatim what Hazare had said.
"Soon after the articles were published, Jain issued legal notice to Hazare, seeking to know if he had made those statements. Hazare, in his reply, did not refute the articles," Pawaskar said.
While trial in Mumbai case is yet to begin, the Jalgaon trial was expedited and is at the fag end. "Only Hazare's final statement under section 313 of Criminal Procedure Code (where court puts questions to the accused after prosecution has completed examination of witnesses) is left to be recorded," advocate Bhatt said.