Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was issued summons by two Gujarat courts on Tuesday in criminal defamation complaints filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for allegedly calling Union Minister Amit Shah a "murder accused" and saying that "all thieves have Modi as surname".
Chief Judicial Magistrate B H Kapadia in Surat asked Gandhi to appear on July 16, while an Ahmedabad court ordered the Congress leader to appear on August 9.
In both the cases, the courts issued summons holding that on the face of it there was a case of criminal defamation against Gandhi under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.
Rahul Gandhi is facing several cases of defamation. Last week, he appeared in courts in Mumbai and Patna and was granted bail. He had alleged that the cases were filed by his political opponents to "harass and intimidate" him.
The Surat court was on Tuesday hearing a complaint of BJP legislator Purnesh Modi who alleged that the Congress leader had defamed the entire Modi community with his remark that "how come all thieves have Modi as common surname" made during the Lok Sabha campaign.
On May 2, the court had ordered that summons be issued to Gandhi through the Speaker of Lok Sabha as he was an MP. But since there was no clarity over who would be the Speaker post-election, no summons was issued, said Purnesh Modi's lawyer Hasmukh Lalwala.
He had filed an application seeking that the court issue a summons which could be directly served on Gandhi, which was accepted by the court Tuesday, the lawyer said.
Purnesh Modi is the MLA from Surat-West.
At a campaign rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, Gandhi had reportedly said, "Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi.... how come they all have Modi as common surname? How come all thieves have Modi as common surname?"
In Ahmedabad, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate D S Dabhi re-issued summons to Gandhi after the one issued on May 1 was not served upon Gandhi by the Lok Sabha Speaker, said advocate Prakash Patel, lawyer of complainant Krishnavadan Brahmbhatt.
Brahmbhatt, a local BJP corporator, alleged in his criminal defamation complaint that at an election rally in Jabalpur on April 23, Gandhi said "murder-accused BJP chief Amit Shah, wah, kya shaan hai (how glorious)!".
Brahmbhatt contended that this was slanderous as Shah was acquitted by a CBI court in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case in 2015, and the higher courts did not entertain appeals against the acquittal.
Earlier, another magistrate's court had issued a summons to Gandhi and Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala in a criminal defamation suit filed by the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank and its chairman.
Amit Shah is a director of the bank. The matter will be heard on July 12 when Gandhi is likely to appear.
The complaint alleged that the Congress leaders falsely claimed that the bank was involved in a scam where Rs 750 crore in scrapped notes were exchanged with valid currency within five days of demonetisation in 2016.
In Mumbai, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker has dragged him to court for allegedly saying that the ideology of the RSS and BJP was responsible for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He is facing a similar case in Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district.
In Patna, he has been sued by Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi over his 'thieves' remark.