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Rahul in trouble for saying RSS killed Mahatma.

Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi at Parliament on the second day of the Monsoon Session in New Delhi on Tuesday.

IT SEEMS there is no easy relief for Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi, who is facing a two- yearold defamation case for saying " RSS people had killed Mahatma Gandhi." Adopting a stern view, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to quash the case filed by RSS activist Rajesh Kunte, directing Rahul's lawyer that " either he apologise or face trial" as " such collective denunciation" cannot be pardoned.

Kunte who filed a complaint before a Magistrate Court in Bhiwandi alleged that Rahul said at an election rally at Sonale in Thane district on March 6, 2014.

that " RSS people had killed Mahatma Gandhi... They are opposed to Sardar Patel and Gandhiji". Kunte is secretary of the Bhiwandi unit of RSS. " We have upheld the criminal defamation law. The purpose of the law is to make people obey rules so that there is harmony rather than anarchy. The law is not against the right to freedom of speech. Freedom is not crippled or cut. Everyday a writer, politician will speak something and there will be litigation. The purpose of law is not to turn people to into litigants," a bench of justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Nariman told Rahul's lawyer Haren Rawal.

The court was hearing Rahul's plea challenging the March 10, order of the Bombay High Court which dismissed his petition for quashing the case. Following Kunte's complaint, the magistrate had initiated proceedings and issued notice to Rahul directing him to appear before it.

Sibal roped in To add to the drama, despite an earlier SC stay on proceedings, Rahul appeared in the Bhiwandi court on May 8 and later approached the High Court against the complaint.

Rahul Gandhi's counsel tried to justify his remarks saying these are " historical facts and even part of the government records". The bench retorted that the only way out for Rahul was by proving the statement was for public good.

" We feel the case should be decided on merits. Was it for public good or not. Else, face the trial", the bench told Rahul's lawyer.

The bench stopped short of dictating the order asking Rahul to face trial when Rawal sought some more time to argue the case and said they will be roping in senior Congress leader and well- known lawyer Kapil Sibal to make further points. SC then posted the plea for further hearing on July 27.

The case which was in cold storage reopened on May 14, when the SC -- holding that " it is always better to mind your language as right to free speech does not mean defaming another" -- dismissed the plea filed by Rahul, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to decriminalise criminal defamation law.

The three, faced with defamation cases had challenged the validity of Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC and Section 199 of the Criminal Procedure Code that made defamation punishable with two years in jail. They had argued that rather than protecting individual reputation, these sections have a stringent effect on free speech.

The penal provisions conceived in the British era are now outmoded and inconsistent with the right to freedom of speech and expression, the trio contended.

But rejecting the argument, the Bench headed by Justice Misra said: " We uphold the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 199 of the Code of Criminal Procedure". " Once we have held that reputation of an individual is a basic element of Article 21 of the Constitution and balancing of fundamental rights is a constitutional necessity and further the legislature in its wisdom has kept the penal provision alive, it is extremely difficult to subscribe to the view that criminal defamation has a stringent effect on the freedom of speech and expression. Notwithstanding the expansive and sweeping ambit of freedom of speech, as all rights, right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. It is subject to imposition of reasonable restrictions." SC: Every day a politician, writer or someone will say something.

Purpose of the law is not to convert people into litigants.

There should be harmony rather than anarchy. That is why we have upheld criminal defamation law recently.

Rahul's lawyer: What he said was based on historical facts and it is even part of government records.

SC: If you mean what he said was for public good then that has to be proved at the trial. Let him face trial. Even then you cannot make collective denunciation of an organisation.

Rahul's lawyer: It is not against any organisation.

SC: What are you saying ? What else can ' RSS ke logon ne gandhiji ko goli mari' mean? Face the trial.

Anyway, we will be further hearing the matter on July 27.

COURTROOM EXCHANGE REACTING to the court's observations, the Congress said that Rahul will not tender an apology and will instead substantiate his remarks with historical facts and evidence before the court. " Gandhi is a mature politician with intimate knowledge of historical facts.

Congress and Gandhi will defend these remarks at the appropriate forum", Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

CONGRESS REACTION ON RAHUL DEFAMATION CASE Case reopened when the SC dismissed plea filed by Rahul, Arvind Kejriwal & Subramanian Swamy

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jul 20, 2016
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