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Apologise for anti-RSS remark or face trial: SC rebukes Rahul Gandhi

Source: PTI
Last updated on: July 19, 2016 20:09 IST
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday on Tuesday made it clear to Rahul Gandhi that he will have to face trial in a defamation case if he does not express regret over his statement blaming Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi's assassination but the Congress remained unfazed ruling out such a possibility.

Without taking the name of the RSS, the apex court also observed that Rahul should not have made a collective denunciation of an organisation.

While the Congress asserted that Rahul would not apologise for the remarks, the RSS accused the Congress of maligning it and consistently spreading lies about it.

"We have held it may be historically correct but the fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can't make collective denunciation," a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman said, posting the matter for further hearing on July 27.


The bench was hearing an appeal filed by Rahul seeking quashing of a criminal defamation case ordered by a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra for a public speech in which he had linked the RSS to Gandhiji's killing.

"Freedom is not crippled or curbed.  What is curbed is defamatory speech. What the writers, politicians, critics or antagonists say, you must have great magnitude to swallow," it said.

Wondering why he made a speech quoting "wrong historical fact", the court observed, "What we have to see is whether the petitioner's allegations come under Section 499 (defamation) of IPC or not. Judgement is already there. You have to face trial, if you don't express regret."

Rahul had moved the Supreme Court in May last year seeking quashing of the criminal defamation case lodged against him for his comments. The case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra's Thane district.

The apex court had granted interim stay on the proceedings of the case before the magisterial court. Rahul had earlier also refused to accept the apex court's suggestion to express regret over his statement blaming RSS for Mahatma Gandhi's killing to close the defamation case against him but he decided to contest it.

Reacting to the court's observations, the Congress today said that Gandhi will not tender an apology and will instead substantiate them with historical facts and evidence before the court to support his claim.

"On a suggestion of Rahul Gandhi expressing regret or apology, the question does not arise. Such a suggestion has been made in the past and not accepted by Rahul.

"He is a mature politician with intimate knowledge of historical facts. Congress Party and Mr Gandhi will defend these remarks at appropriate forum," Congress' chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.

He said since the matter is pending adjudication, "we will not like to comment further on the issue".

In his reaction, RSS' Communications Deprtment Head Manmohan Vaidya said the "Congress had been consistently trying to spread lies and baseless allegations about RSS.

Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling has exposed the Congress."

"They (Rahul and other Congress leaders) are avoiding the trial and are repeating the same false allegations against RSS. It seems he does not have faith in India's legal system and respect for it," he told PTI.

The apex court said "the purpose of law is not to convert people into litigants. Purpose of law is that people obey law. Peace and harmony should prevail rather than chaos."

Senior advocate Harin Raval, appearing for Rahul, said 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 the RSS directly.

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

"You have gone way ahead and you can't make collective denunciation," it said.

Justice Misra said that "history is the greatest enemy of privacy. Over the years, attempts have been made to enter into the lives of historically eminent personalities to give a new dimension."

While quoting the recent order in a petition filed by Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam leader and actor A Vijayakanth challenging the cases lodged against him and others in which the apex court has issued notice to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the bench said criticism of government is one thing and criticism of historical figure is another thing.

Raval then sought an adjournment for two weeks saying senior advocate Kapil Sibal will argue in the matter and he is not available on Tuesday and also sought a liberty to file rejoinder.


The bench, however, refused the request for adjournment and posted the matter for July 27 and said that no further adjournment will be granted in the case. The penal provisions make defamation an offence punishable by up to a two-year jail term.

It was alleged by Rajesh Kunte, secretary of Bhiwandi unit of RSS, that Rahul told an election rally at Sonale on March 6, 2015 that "The RSS people killed Gandhiji".

He has said the Congress leader had sought to tarnish the reputation of the Sangh through his speech.

Following the complaint, the magistrate's court had initiated proceedings and issued notice to Rahul directing him to appear before it. Rahul was summoned to appear before the trial court on January 6, this year.

The Congress leader then approached the high court seeking exemption from appearance and quashing of the complaint.

The prosecution had opposed the petition and argued that Rahul can plead his case and lead evidence during trial before the magistrate.

The high court had dismissed the petition and refused to grant stay on its order. It had allowed the Congress leader time to appeal against its order in the Supreme Court.

He had moved the Supreme Court in May last year for quashing the criminal case lodged against him for his comments.

Image: Rahul Gandhi at Parliament house on the opening day of the monsoon session in New Delhi on Monday. Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI

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