Apology to RSS or a trial in court over statement blaming RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination… This is the sum total of option left with Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi after Supreme Court refused to quash criminal proceedings against him. The top court instead observed that he should not have resorted to “collective denunciation” of an organisation.
He had moved the Supreme Court in May last year seeking the quashing of criminal defamation case lodged against him for his contentious statement “RSS people killed Gandhiji” which was made during 2014 General Elections. RSS is an ideological fountainhead of the ruling BJP.
“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 Rohinton F Nariman told Rahul Gandhi’s lawyers.
Questioning the speech made by Rahul Gandhi, the apex court bench further said they have applied their mind and Rahul Gandhi may have to face the trial in the case.
“What we have to see is 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,” the bench said.
While the case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra’s Thane district, Gandhi seems to have taken a stand to slug it out in the court refusing to accept the suggestion
Defending Rahul Gandhi, his lawyer and former ASG, Harin Raval contended 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.
But the bench had a different view. After perusing the judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, the court 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.
“You have gone a way ahead and you can’t make collective denunciation,” Justice Misra said adding, “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.”
The matter has now been adjourned till July 27.
The case was filed by one Rajesh Kunte, secretary of Bhiwandi unit of RSS, alleging that Congress vice president had sought to tarnish the reputation of the RSS through his speech. The penal provisions make defamation an offence punishable by up to a two-year jail term.
(With inputs from the PTI)