Jaitley v. Kejriwal: Justice Endlaw’s experience in cross examinations rattles defence lawyers

Jaitley v. Kejriwal: Justice Endlaw’s experience in cross examinations rattles defence lawyers

Ashutosh Gambhir

The cross examination of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the defamation case against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his associates recommenced in the Delhi High Court today before the Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw.

Earlier, the cross examination was being conducted before the Joint Registrar. However, Justice Manmohan through his order dated February 9, had shifted the cross examination to a Single Judge Bench so that the proceedings may be concluded in a speedy manner.

At the outset, Justice Endlaw stated that he was administering a cross examination after ten years. Chuckling, he said that he had even forgot the exact words of the oath taken by the witness.

However, Justice Endlaw did not take any time in gaining momentum and dealt with the questions raised by Kejriwal’s counsel with a dead bat whenever they went off track. Any law student could get a crash course in cross examination just by sitting in Justice Endlaw’s courtroom today.

Appearing for Kejriwal, Senior Advocate Anoop George Chaudhari often forwarded his questions in the form of suggestions. Justice Endlaw put an end to this practice and stated that this system was unknown in civil law and was only permitted in criminal law. Therefore, he asked the Senior Counsel to refrain from putting questions as suggestions.

Chaudhari based most of his questions on documents pertaining to the DDCA. He would recite the contents of the documents to confront Jaitley. Justice Endlaw disallowed this practice as well, and stated that the contents of documents cannot be put to the witness. He further stated that he felt bad that he has to dismiss questions put forth by a Senior Counsel.

Kejriwal’s lawyers were visibly rattled by the way things were proceeding. Justice Endlaw then asked the Senior Counsel to rework the questions and come back again as he could not allow questions that were irrelevant and non-specific. He observed,

“Just because you have printed out 5 pages of questions does not mean that you have to go on for 2 hours.”

Finally, Justice Endlaw adjourned the hearing and asked Kejriwal’s lawyers to rework the questions and conclude the cross examination on the next date.

“You are cross examining to win the suit and not to keep on cross examining. Cross examination is not the end of the road, let us not forget that.” 

Kejriwal’s counsel agreed to come back with the redesigned questions and conclude the cross examination as soon as possible. However, they pleaded for more time to conclude the same.

The next hearing was earlier scheduled for tomorrow, but on the request of Kejriwal’s lawyers, the matter will now be heard next week.

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