The Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s petition seeking quashing of a defamation case filed against him for his remarks that the RSS was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice RF Nariman will take up the matter at 2 pm. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal is likely to argue the matter for the Congress vice-president.
Last week, the SC ticked off the Congress vice-president over his “collective denunciation” of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and said he will have to express regret or face trial in the defamation case.
“You can’t make wholesale denunciation of an organisation. There is a difference between Nathuram Godse killing Mahatma Gandhi and the RSS killing him,” the court observed.
Gandhi moved the top court in May 2015 seeking a stay on the Bombay high court order dismissing his plea for quashing the defamation case lodged against him by RSS activist Rajesh Kunte for his remarks against the saffron organisation.
He has also challenged the constitutionality of criminal defamation, contending that it affects freedom of expression.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor RSS hit out at Gandhi after the SC’s observations in the case.
The ruling party said the court proceedings were a “slap on the Congress face”. And RSS publicity head Manmohan Vaidya accused the Congress of “consistently trying to spread lies and baseless allegations” against the Sangh and said that the SC ruling “exposed” the party.
The Congress party, however, said Gandhi is ready to face trial instead of apologising for the remarks in question that he reportedly made in March 2014 while campaigning in Maharashtra for the Lok Sabha elections and substantiate them with historical facts and evidence before the court.
The opposition party claims it can prove in court the connection between Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, and the RSS. Godse was tried and convicted for the assassination on January 30, 1948, and executed on November 15, 1949.
Some historians say although the Sangh may have been cleared of charges of complicity in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the group’s ideology of pushing for a Hindu nation was in direct opposition to the freedom fighter’s stand. Their conflicting ideologies made their relationship fraught.
Arjun Dev said that there is “plenty of historical evidence” to substantiate Gandhi’s statement that the RSS may not have directly killed Gandhi, but they created a certain ideology against him. He underlined that Veer Savarkar and his Hindu Mahasabha had shown tacit support for Godse.
On the other hand, Ramachandra Guha agreed that the RSS and Gandhi were polar opposites, but he pointed out that the Sangh could not be held responsible for the murder.
Over the years, the RSS has been striving to alter the perception that it was opposed to Gandhi and that following his murder, was considered a communal outfit by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.