NEW DELHI, July 20 (NIA): The Indian Supreme court has said that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who blamed the Hindu extremist organization Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, should not have resorted to a “collective denunciation of an organization” and that he will have to face trial in the defamation case against him if he does not express regret.
“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 a collective denunciation,” a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman said, according to a report by the Press Trust of India.
“Freedom is not crippled or curbed. What is curbed is freedom of speech,” the bench said.
The judges said that they have applied their mind and Rahul Gandhi will have to face trial in this case.
“What we have to see is whether the petitioner’s allegations come under Section 499 (defamation) of IPC or not. You have to face trial, if you don’t express regret,” they made it clear.
The judges said that peace and harmony should prevail rather than chaos.
Senior advocate Harin Raval, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, said whatever was said in the speech was on the basis of government records and on a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He also had not referred to the RSS directly.
After perusing the judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court, the judges said that it only says that Nathuram Godse was an RSS worker.
“ It is one thing to say Godse killed Gandhi and quite another to say that the RSS killed Gandhi.”You have gone way ahead. You can’t make a collective denunciation,” they said and posted the case for July 27. . The penal provisions make defamation an offence punishable by up to a two-year jail term.
Rahul Gandhi had moved the Supreme Court in May last year for quashing the criminal defamation case lodged against him for his comments. The case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra’s Thane district.
The apex court had granted interim stay on the proceedings of the case before the magisterial court.
Press Trust of India further reported that Rahul Gandhi refused to accept the Supreme Court’s suggestion that he express regret over his statement.
Rajesh Kunte, Secretary of the Bhiwandi unit of the RSS, had filed a case saying that that Rahul Gandhi told an election rally at Sonale on March 6, 2015 that “RSS people killed Gandhiji”.
He said the Congress leader had sought to tarnish the reputation of the Sangh.
Following the complaint, the magistrate’s court had initiated proceedings and issued notice to Rahul Gandhi directing him to appear before it on January 6, this year.
The Congress leader then approached the High Court seeking exemption from appearance and quashing of the complaint.
The prosecution had opposed the petition and argued that Rahul Gandhi can plead his case and lead evidence during trial before the magistrate.
The High Court dismissed the petition and refused to grant a stay on its order. It had allowed the Congress leader time to appeal against its order in the Supreme Court. He had then moved the Supreme Court in May last year for quashing the criminal case lodged against him.
Allegation Based on Facts
On Monday, the Congress party said that Rahul Gandhi will not tender an apology over his remarks against the RSS and will instead substantiate them with historical facts and evidence before the court.
“Mr Gandhi is a mature politician with intimate knowledge of historical facts. The Congress Party and Mr Gandhi will defend these remarks at the appropriate forum,” the Congress’ chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.
The Congress leader said that Rahul Gandhi had challenged the constitutionality of the defamation proceedings.