RSS defamation case: Congress chief pleads not guilty

Pointing to bank frauds, Mr Gandhi alleged that Mr Modi was a chowkidar†only for a handful of industrialists and not the common man.

Update: 2018-06-12 20:22 GMT
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi arrives at a court in Bhiwandi, Thane, on Tuesday. (Photo: Debasish Dey)

Mumbai: A local Maharashtra court on Tuesday decided to put to trial Congress president Rahul Gandhi who pleaded “not guilty” in a defamation case filed against him by an RSS worker in a Bhiwandi for his alleged remarks linking the Hindutva organisation with Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948.

Before framing charges under Section 499 (defamation) and Section 500 (punishment) of the IPC against Mr Gandhi, Bhiwandi civil judge A.I. Shaikh read out the charges and the complaint filed by RSS worker Rajesh Kunte.

After reading out the complaint, the judge asked Mr Gandhi, “Do you accept the charges?”

To this, Mr Gandhi replied, “I plead not guilty.”

Mr Kunte had filed the case in 2014 after watching Mr Gandhi’s speech at an election rally in which he had claimed that the RSS was behind the killing of Mahatma Gandhi. In 2016, Mr Gandhi was granted bail by the Bhiwandi court.

Emerging from the court, Mr Gandhi said if need be, he would be present in the court again. “Let them (the BJP and the RSS) slap as many cases as they want on me. Ours is a fight of ideology. We will fight them and win,” Mr Gandhi told reporters outside the court.

The next hearing will be on August 10. A person found guilty of defamation under Section 500 faces simple imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years.

The court on Tuesday also accepted Mr Gandhi’s application to run a summons trial in the case. On May 2, Mr Gandhi’s lawyer Narayan Iyer had moved an application asking for a summons trial and not a summary trial.

In a summons trial, the court will need to go through all the evidence, books and historical references pertaining to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.

On Tuesday, Mr Kunte moved an application in which he wanted the acceptance of a transcript of Mr Gandhi’s alleged speech as evidence. But Mr Gandhi’s lawyer opposed the plea.

The complainant’s lawyer Nandu Phadke told the court that after a complaint was filed in the Bhiwandi court, Mr Gandhi had moved the Bombay high court to quash it. At that time, his petition contained his alleged speech transcript. Therefore, Mr Phadke requested the court that Mr Gandhi should accept the said transcript as evidence.

Addressing a convention of Mumbai booth-level Congress workers in the evening, Mr Gandhi hit out at the Modi government for its failure to create two crore jobs and address farm distress. He also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that one day he will also flee from the country like fugitives Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya.

Pointing to bank frauds, Mr Gandhi alleged that Mr Modi was a “chowkidar” only for a handful of industrialists and not the common man.

Mr Gandhi said, “Nirav Modi ran away with Rs 34,000 crore; Vijay Mallya ran away with Rs 8,000 crore; and Lalit Modi also.”

At this juncture, someone ín the crowd shouted the name of Prime Minister Modi. Reacting to the nudge, Mr Gandhi said, “Woh bhi bhaag jayega (he too will run away).”

Expressing confidence of defeating the BJP in 2019, Mr Gandhi said, “The BJP saved itself somehow in Gujarat. They lost in Karnataka. In the coming elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, they will not remain to be scene. And, in 2019, the Congress and all Opposition parties will unite to defeat them.”

Slamming the Modi government over a number of issues, Mr Gandhi said, “They made claims of two crore jobs but failed to meet them. The farmers are crying.”

 “Our competition is with China. They create 50,000 jobs every 24 hours and the Modi government is giving only 450. The government’s own report said that this year’s employment generation is the lowest in the last eight years. But the PM does not want to give jobs. He wants to fuel enmity among the youth. He is not bothered about the genuine issues of the people,” said Mr Gandhi.

The Congress president said that the Prime Minister feels that he can run the country only with his speeches.

“But now, if you observe him closely, there is fear in his voice. There is even more fear in Jay Shah’s father (Amit Shah)... And that is why he is going here and there,” he said in an apparent dig at the saffron party’s “Contact for support” campaign.


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