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Rahul in court over defamation case.

Mumbai: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi appeared in a court in Bhiwandi, Thane district, Maharashtra on Friday in a defamation case filed against him.

Even though the Supreme Court, had on Thursday stayed the defamation proceedings against the Congress leader, he, nevertheless, decided to appear before the magistrate's court Friday. The defamation case was filed against Rahul, who in an election speech at a Congress rally in Bhiwandi on March 6, 2014 had blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) (an umbrella for right wing outfits) for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Following his allegations, Rajesh Kunte, secretary of the Bhiwandi unit of RSS, had moved the local court against Rahul's remarks and filed a defamation case. After he lodged a complaint, the magistrate issued a notice to Rahul for his appearance.

Gandhi presented himself before Magistrate D.P. Kale in line with the commitment given by his counsel on March 30. He spent less than 15 minutes in the court Friday, after arriving in the morning on way to Bengaluru and driving to Thane.

The Bhiwandi court has given the next date of hearing in the case on September 30.

When the media asked Rahul why he appeared before the court despite getting an exemption from the apex court, he replied, "We respect the judiciary, that is why I am here. I had kept a commitment and I intended to fulfil it."

He also tweeted later, "The fight which Gandhiji fought is also our fight. We will fight and we will win."

Rahul had challenged the 155-year-old provision of the criminal defamation law in the country and his petition said that the provisions had a "chilling effect" on citizens' fundamental right to free speech and must be scrapped.

The Supreme Court clubbed Rahul's petition with similar petitions filed by his political opponents BJP's Subramaniam Swamy and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who had also urged doing away with Sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment) of the Indian Penal Code which carry a two-year jail term for defamation.

The court clarified that it would not touch the merit of the case of anyone, but only focus on constitutional validity of these sections and whether they violate right to freedom of speech and expression.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 9, 2015
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