Bhiwandi: Rahul Gandhi today pleaded “not guilty”, as charges were framed against him by a judge in a defamation case filed by an RSS leader in Maharashtra. He will face trial on the charge of harming the reputation of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.
“(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi won’t speak a word on inflation and fuel price hike. They have been slapping cases on me, but my fight is based on ideology, I will fight against them and we will win,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters after the hearing.
The Congress President has been sued over his comments at a rally before the 2014 election blaming the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. The case was filed by an RSS worker, Rajesh Kunte. In 2016, he was granted bail by the court in Bhiwandi, which is around 32 km from Mumbai.
Mr Gandhi arrived in court this morning surrounded by heavy security; he was greeted by slogan-shouting Congress workers.
As he took the stand, judge AI Sheikh said: “On March 6, 2014 in a rally held for elections at Bhiwandi, you defamed the organisation to which the complainant belongs. Your speech, which was telecast on channels and also published in newspapers, damaged the reputation of the complainant and his organization and you thereby committed an offence under sections 499 and 500 of IPC (defamation). Do you plead guilty?”
The 47-year-old replied, “I plead not guilty”.
The RSS is the ideological mentor of the BJP (Reuters)
The Congress President had in 2016 requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the case but he later withdrew the petition, telling the court that he was ready to be tried on charges of defaming the RSS. The RSS had said at the time it could drop the suit if Mr Gandhi stated publicly that he does not blame it as an institution for the death of the Mahatma. Mr Gandhi, however, told the court that it is not an option.
“I stand by each and every word. I will never take my words back… I am ready to go to trial,” Mr Gandhi had said.
On a two-day visit to Maharashtra, Mr Gandhi is expected to address party workers in Mumbai and interact with corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC.