New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday told the Supreme Court that he was ready to face trial over his statement that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members were involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, in response to which a defamation complaint has been filed against him.
“I stand by every word of what I said. RSS ke logon ne Gandhiji ko mara, ye log Gandhiji ki baat karte hain (RSS members killed Mahatma Gandhi, and yet speak of him)," lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing Rahul Gandhi, said in court.
Sibal added that his client was ready to go to trial over his statement.
Rahul Gandhi had moved the apex court in May last year for quashing the criminal defamation case filed against him for his comments on a complaint by Rajesh Kunte of the RSS. The case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra’s Thane district.
Kunte filed the criminal defamation complaint against Rahul Gandhi for blaming RSS, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ideological arm, for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton F. Nariman allowed Rahul Gandhi to withdraw his appeal in the Supreme Court.
The court, however, declined to exempt Rahul Gandhi from personal appearance before the trial court.
The apex court also clarified that any adverse observations made by the Bombay high court order in May last year would not influence the trial court in proceeding with the defamation case. The apex court appeal was against the Bombay high court order.
“We’re not inclined to interfere (in this appeal)... Needless to say... trial court shall move without being influenced by the high court observations," the apex court said.
When the case was taken up by the court on Thursday, Justice Misra noted that Rahul Gandhi had earlier said that he did not accuse RSS of the crime.
“I never said RSS is an institution of crime but (Nathuram) Godse who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi was affiliated to RSS. It is not an attempt to appropriate the legacy of RSS," Rahul Gandhi is said to have clarified in his affidavit filed earlier and referred to by the apex court on 24 August.
Kunte’s lawyer, U.R. Lalit, during the course of the hearing, wanted a show of good faith from Rahul Gandhi that he indeed did not mean to involve the organization. He told the court that the Congress leader had again made references to RSS being involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in Assam.
“This is an ideological fight that Congress Party, people of this country, have fought for decades together, that Rahul Gandhi continues to champion this fight, is against the forces of division, the forces of destruction, forces who want to polarize India based on their own coloured vision of religion, which is neither correct nor appropriate," Randeep Surjewala, chief spokesperson of the Congress party told reporters on Thursday.
“Forces which seek to divide brother and brother sometimes on caste, sometimes on untouchable and being forward and sometimes on the ground of region, Congress Party has steadfastly fought this fight and will continue to do so under the leadership of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi," he added.
“If he keeps making such attacks on RSS, then his party’s tally will fall to four from 44. It has become his habit to attack those who love this country," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters.
The RSS questioned why Gandhi had avoided trial all these days. “Then why did Rahul Gandhi avoid trial for two years under one pretext or other? Is he scared of facing the truth? He keeps taking U-turns," RSS communications department head Manmohan Vaidya said.