Chowkidar row: Rahul Gandhi gets SC contempt notice

Personal appearance exempted at top court's April 30 hearing.

Update: 2019-04-23 19:58 GMT
Congress President Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a contempt notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his “chowkidar chor hai” remark. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, told the court Rahul Gandhi admitted to making a wrong statement. He admitted he made the statement without having seen or read the order.

He also said Rahul Gandhi had not apologised but only expressed “regret” in his reply to the Supreme Court. Mr Rohatgi said Mr Gandhi’s apology was mere lip service. “Is this the way to quote the Supreme Court? Just because you are the head of a party?” Mr Rohatgi asked.

The court has, however, exempted Mr Gandhi from personal appearance in the case, filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, which will come up for hearing on April 30. It will be heard along with the pending review petitions against the December 14, 2018 verdict in the Rafale fighter jet deal. The court rejected Mr Gandhi’s plea to close the criminal contempt petition filed by Ms Lekhi.

Mr Gandhi had expressed regret for attributing the “chowkidar chor hai” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Supreme Court on Monday. The Chief Justice of India said he was yet to read Rahul Gandhi’s reply to the court.

Mr Gandhi said the comment was made in the heat of campaigning. “The statement was made in the heat of political campaigning,” Mr Gandhi said in his reply to the Supreme Court. Mr Gandhi apologised in his reply to the court notice over a contempt petition filed against him by the BJP on the Rafale controversy. After the Supreme Court announced its decision to allow consideration of leaked Rafale documents to review a previous judgment, Congress president Rahul Gandhi claimed a moral victory and said the court had made it clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “committed theft”. He told reporters during a rally in Amethi: “The Supreme Court has made it clear that chowkidarji (watchman) has committed a theft.”

The Supreme Court bench had issued a clarification that it had not made any remarks on the Prime Minister’s role in the Rafale deal. BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said the Congress president had deliberately misinterpreted the court’s April 10 order which allowed the “leaked” defence ministry documents to be taken on record.

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