The defamation case against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for blaming the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination took a new twist on Wednesday with the Supreme Court questioning the Magistrate’s direction to the police to probe the case while it was for the complainant to prove the allegation.
“The Magisterial court (in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra) had asked police to submit an enquiry report instead of collecting evidence himself as furnished by the complainant. As per the criminal procedure code, the police has no role in a criminal defamation case. We have also said this in the recent judgment” , a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton Nariman told senior lawyer U R Lalit who represented Rajesh Kunte, the RSS activist who filed the complainant.
Surprisingly, both Lalit and senior lawyer Kapil Sibal who appeared for Rahul did not know about this particular act of the Magistrate and its questionable validity till told by Justice Misra. Sibal even admitted he had not gone through the previous orders and judgments in the case.
The bench adjourned the case till August 23 to enable both sides to examine the aspect.
On June 19, adopting a stern view of the case, the bench refused to quash the defamation case clearly telling Rahul’s lawyer “either he apologize or face trial” as “such collective denunciation” cannot be pardoned.
Kunte who filed a complaint before a Magistrate Court in Bhiwandi alleged that Rahul said at an election rally at Sonale in Thane district on March 6 while campaigning for 2014 Lok Sabha polls that “RSS people had killed Mahatma Gandhi… They are opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji”. Kunte is secretary of the Bhiwandi unit of RSS.
“We have upheld the criminal defamation law. The purpose of the law is to make people obey the law so that there is harmony rather than anarchy. The law is not against the right to freedom of speech. Freedom is not crippled or cut. Everyday a writer, politician will speak something and there will be litigation. The purpose of law is not to turn people to into litigants”, the bench had told Rahul’s lawyer Haren Rawal.
The court was hearing Rahul’s plea challenging the March 10 order of the Bombay High Court which dismissed his petition for quashing the case. Following Kunte’s complaint, the magistrate had initiated proceedings and issued notice to Rahul directing him to appear before it.
To add to the drama, despite an earlier SC stay on proceedings, Rahul appeared in the Bhiwandi court on May 8 and later approached the High Court against the complaint. Rahul Gandhi’s counsel tried to justify his remarks in the SC saying these are “historical facts and even part of the government records”.