Rahul Gandhi today preferred to face trial as an accused in a defamation case for his remark against the RSS on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, telling the Supreme Court he stood by every word of his statement made during a poll rally in 2014.
The Congress Vice President expressed his readiness to face trial after the apex court refused to interfere with criminal proceedings pending against him before a trial court in Maharashtra. Rahul then withdrew the appeal filed by him against the Bombay High Court judgement refusing to quash the defamation case and summons issued to him by the trial court.
The apex court also declined Rahul’s plea that he be exempted from personal appearance before the Bhiwandi court which has taken cognizance of the complaint of a RSS functionary by summoning him as an accused for his statement on the organisation for the killing of the Father of Nation.
The brief hearing before a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman saw the Gandhi scion deviating from his earlier stand that he never blamed RSS as an institution for the killing by stating that he stood by every word of his statement made during an election rally in 2014 that had led to the filing of complaint by Sangh functionary Rajesh Mahadev Kunte.
“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 as well. I am ready to go to the trial,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rahul, submitted, and reiterated “what Gopal Godse, brother of Nathuram Godse has said about the RSS.”
At the outset, senior advocate U R Lalit, who was asked at the last hearing to take instruction from his client as to whether he was ready to accept Rahul’s statement that he did not blame RSS but people associated with it for the killing, said there was a need for some addition in the sentence.
“I am taking the statement at its face value. In the given situation, I can agree with his stand if he states that he did not intend to involve RSS for the offence. If he says he did not intend to involve RSS, let him clarify.
“Let him say that he believes that RSS as an institution was not involved in the killing,” Lalit told the bench which had sought his response to the stand taken by the Congress leader on the last hearing that is August 24.
Lalit, who said he was appearing for the organisation, drew the attention of the bench that during some of the election speeches in Assam and other places, he has made similar statements on the issue.
“I am not saying anything else. Let him show his bonafide that I (Rahul) did not intend to say that RSS was involved in the crime because I can show the sequence (of his statement in the election speech) is such that RSS is the target.
“Nobody is interested in Godse (Nathuram). He was addressing an election rally and his target was RSS. If he says that it (his speech) was not intended to target RSS by adding second sentence,” Lalit, assisted by advocate Anand, said.
Elaborating further as to how RSS has been under attack of Congress party, Lalit said “wherever and whenever there is an election, RSS is maligned.”
“For the last 60 years, everytime when there is election and whenever it is a political battle and wherever there is minority votes, we (RSS) are the capital hook,” Lalit said.
While he was in full song, senior advocate Sibal interrupted, saying that the opposite side was making a “political speech” and should be stopped.
Lalit shot back saying he will prove the case with proof.
And as the decibel level rose, Sibal said that his leader stands by his statement made in the election rally which led to the filing of the private criminal defamation case.
At this point, the bench stopped the hearing and began dictating the order but Sibal interrupted asking it to consider exempting Rahul from personal appearance before the trial court on future dates of hearing.
The bench declined the plea saying “we are not granting exemption from personal appearance.”
Realising that the bench was not inclined to close the matter by recording the statement of Congress leader, Sibal preferred to withdraw the appeal filed by him 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.