RSS defamation case: Stand by what I said, ready to face trial, says Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI (TIP): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on September 1 told the Supreme Court that that he stood by his remarks blaming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Congress leader further said that he was ready to face a trial before a Maharashtra court which had issued a summons to him as an accused in the defamation case.

Gandhi’s lawyer Kapil Sibal told the Supreme Court: “I stand by each and every word. I will never take my words back. I stood by it yesterday, I stand by it today and I will stand by it in future. I am ready to go to trial.”

Rahul withdrew a petition before the apex court that had sought quashing of the defamation proceeding in a Maharashtra trial court.

The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman allowed the petition to be withdrawn but did not grant Rahul Gandhi an exemption from appearing before the trial court.

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When the matter came up before the bench, the counsel appearing for an RSS functionary who has filed the complaint, said he had instruction that the matter can be put to an end if Rahul gave another clarificatory statement that he never intended to say that RSS was behind the assassination.

Senior advocate UR Lalit, appearing for the RSS functionary, submitted that such a statement was needed from Rahul, as in the last 60 years, whenever there was an election, Congress made an attempt to blame RSS for the killing of the Father of the Nation.

“Whenever and wherever there is an election, RSS is maligned,” he said.

Lalit also said if Rahul was not willing to express his bonafide saying he had not intended to accuse the RSS for the assassination, he could show that the sequence of his sentences used in the election rally were such that RSS was his target.

However, the submission was opposed by Sibal who said the statement made by the opposite side was like a political speech and cannot be accepted by the apex court.

As the bench was not inclined to entertain Rahul’s plea, Sibal said he preferred to withdraw the appeal filed by the Congress leader against the Bombay High Court judgement refusing to quash the case and summons issued to him by the trial court.

The bench allowed his plea and declared the Special Leave Petition filed by Rahul as “dismissed as withdrawn”.

The bench also said the trial court would go into the case without being influenced by any of the observations made by the apex court and the High Court during the various hearings before them.

RSS activist Rajesh Kunte filed the defamation case against the Congress leader over his remarks at a 2014 election rally in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra, that people associated with the RSS killed Mahatma Gandhi.

On August 24, Rahul had told the Supreme Court that he had never blamed RSS as an institution for killing Mahatama Gandhi but persons associated with it were behind the assassination. On a subsequent day, Rahul said he stands by his comments and will never stop fighting the “hateful and divisive agenda” of the RSS.

He buttressed his stand by citing paragraphs from his affidavit filed in the Bombay High Court, while challenging the summons issued to him as an accused for his alleged defamatory statement.

Sibal cited the affidavit filed before the High Court and said that Rahul had only accused certain people of RSS and not the organisation as the killer of Mahatma Gandhi.

The court had asked Lalit, appearing for Rajesh Mahadev Kunte, Secretary of Bhiwandi Unit of RSS and the complainant, to take instructions on the option of disposing of the matter.

Lalit had informed the court that he would take instruction as to whether the statement, given in the affidavit, is taken on record, then the petition can be disposed of or not.

Kunte, secretary of Bhiwandi unit of RSS, had alleged in his complaint that Rahul told in an election rally at Sonale on March 6, 2014 that the “RSS people killed Gandhiji”.

The case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra’s Thane district.

He had alleged that the Congress leader had sought to tarnish the reputation of RSS through his speech.

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