Bring it on, says Rahul

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Congress VP prefers trial to changing statement

New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi told the Supreme Court on Thursday that he would stand trial for his remark “RSS ke logon ne (Mahatma Gandhi ko) goli maari,” instead of issuing clarifications adding or subtracting anything.

Rahul’s senior counsel Kapil Sibal took the stand while rejecting Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist Rajesh Mahadev Kunte’s offer for withdrawing the criminal defamation case if the Congress leader clarified that the “RSS was not involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.”

“I stand by every word of what I said,” Sibal told the Bench on behalf of Rahul. At the last hearing on August 24, Rahul had informed the Bench that he had filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, clarifying that he had never blamed the RSS as an organisation for the crime.

At this, the Bench had sought Kunte’s consent for quashing the criminal case against Rahul. Kunte’s senior counsel UR Lalit, however, sought time to consult his client, prompting the Bench to defer the hearing till Thursday.

On Thursday, Lalit said his client was willing to drop the case if Rahul was ready to give a clean chit to the RSS. Kunte wanted such a statement as the Congress was in the habit of RSS-bashing, particularly at the time of elections, for political gains.

Kunte and another RSS activist had filed the defamation case in Bhiwandi in Thane district of Maharashtra for Rahul’s remark at an election rally on March 6, 2014. Despite the fact that he was already facing a case, Rahul repeated his remark during his poll campaign in Assam, Lalit pleaded.

Taking strong exception, Sibal said Lalit was giving a political speech and sought to withdraw his appeal seeking quashing of the defamation case as his client would rather face trial instead of making clarifications.

Accepting Sibal’s plea, the Bench dismissed the appeal as withdrawn and asked the Bhiwandi trial court to resume the proceedings without getting influenced by the remarks made by the Bombay High Court while rejecting Rahul’s plea for quashing the case and the summons issued to him. Rahul had come to the SC challenging the HC order.

Lalit told the Bench that his conditional offer to withdraw the case was no longer valid in view of Rahul’s rejection.

At the hearing on July 19, the Bench had remarked that Rahul should not have made “collective denunciation of an organisation” for the act of one of its members. Rahul’s counsel had not informed the Bench then about his stand in the HC.

On November 26, 2015, Sibal had told the apex court that there was no question of Rahul regretting his remark. The criminal defamation case against his client was based on a frivolous complaint aimed at harassing the Congress leader, Sibal had pleaded.