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  India   Supreme Court tells Rahul Gandhi: Face trial as you won’t apologise

Supreme Court tells Rahul Gandhi: Face trial as you won’t apologise

Published : Jul 20, 2016, 2:05 am IST
Updated : Jul 20, 2016, 2:05 am IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his election speech in March 2014 alleging that the RSS was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and indica

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his election speech in March 2014 alleging that the RSS was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and indicated that he may have to face trial in the defamation complaint filed against him by an RSS activist.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton Nariman told senior counsel Harin Raval, appearing for Mr Gandhi who has challenged the defamation proceedings, “There is a difference between Nathuram Godse killing Mahatma Gandhi and the RSS killing him. You can’t make a collective denunciation of an organisation. It must stand the test of public good. Otherwise it has to go for trial.”

 

During an election speech in March 2014 in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra, Mr Gandhi is alleged to have said that Gandhiji was shot dead by RSS people and yet their people talk of Gandhiji. The comment led to a criminal complaint being filed by RSS activist Rajesh Kunte against Mr Gandhi and the case is pending.

Mr Kunte termed Mr Gandhi’s comment “false, frivolous, baseless and wanton allegations, imputations against the RSS and its people with mala fide motive to harm the reputation of the RSS, its followers, people, swayamsevaks”.

The Bombay high court had, in May 2015, dismissed Mr Gandhi’s plea for quashing the case, following which he had filed a special leave petition in the apex court which is now being heard.

 

In the last hearing in November 2015, the Supreme Court had offered Mr Gandhi an opportunity to express regret over the remarks and give the issue a “decent burial”. But his senior counsel Kapil Sibal had said that Mr Gandhi would not offer an apology and was ready to argue the matter.

Mr Gandhi’s lawyers had then told the court that whatever was said in the speech was on the basis of government records and on the basis of decision of Punjab and Haryana high court and he was not referring to RSS directly.

The bench, after perusing the judgment of Punjab and Haryana high court, had said it only says that Nathuram Godse was an RSS worker and added that Godse killed Gandhi and RSS killed Gandhi are two different things.

 

During the resumed hearing on Tuesday, the Bench refuse to quash the proceedings and said, “You can’t make wholesale denunciation of an organisation. We have made it clear in our earlier judgment (in May this year, upholding the defamation law) that there is a difference between denouncing an individual and an entity. You have denounced an entity.”

Senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for the complainant, Mr Kunte, said that it was not a solitary remark by Mr Gandhi; that the Congress leader had repeated his statements thereafter, a number of times. He offered to place an affidavit of similar statements allegedly made by Mr Gandhi.

 

He said his client was willing to drop the defamation case if Mr Gandhi tendered a regret. “If he regrets we will withdraw the case.”

Justice Misra then asked Mr Raval, “Is it true you made such similar statements and repeated it Possibly the man (Rahul) has said it.”

Even as Mr Raval denied the averment of Mr Krishnamani, Justice Misra said, “You must face trial. The case must be decided on merits, whether what you spoke was for public good or not, will be determined at the trial. We agree that the purpose of law is not to turn citizens into litigants. Earlier, we have upheld the defamation law. The purpose of the law is to obey law so that there is harmony rather than anarchy. Freedom is not crippled or cut every day a writer, politician will speak something.”

 

Mr Raval sought adjournment of the case by two weeks on the ground that senior counsel Mr Sibal was not available. The Bench, however, posted the matter for July 27, making it clear that no further adjournments will be granted.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi