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RSS defamation case: Bhiwandi court frames charges against Rahul Gandhi

Congress president pleads ‘not guilty; trial begins on August 10.

mumbai Updated: Jun 12, 2018 13:15 IST
Pratik Salunke
Pratik Salunke
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai court,RSS defamation case
Congress president Rahul Gandhi outside Bhiwandi court premises on Tuesday morning.(Praful Gangurde)

A magistrate court at Bhiwandi on Tuesday framed charges against Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) defamation case. He has been accused of defaming the RSS by purportedly blaming it for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination at a rally in 2014.

The magistrate charged Gandhi under sections 499 (defamation) and 500 (punishment for defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.

After reading out and explaining the charges to him, the court asked Gandhi if he wanted to plead guilty, to which he responded by pleading not guilty.

The framing of charges is the first step towards commencement of a trial.

The Congress president, who was allowed to leave court after these proceedings, came out and greeted the crowd waiting outside. Speaking to the media outside the court premises, Gandhi said that charges have been slapped against him and that he would face the trial.

He also criticised the central government, saying that “10 to 15 rich people are running this country... Narendra Modi does not speak about rising fuel prices”.

“The court agreed to our plea to convert the case into a summons trial [from a summary one]. The next hearing is scheduled on August 10,” said Narayan Iyer, Gandhi’s lawyer.

The summons or detailed trial is one in which where there is a detailed recording of evidence in the case, as against a summary trial, which is based on a summary of the evidence recorded by the court. In a summons trial, Iyer said, the applicant can demand the recording of witness testimonies, and both defence and prosecution can produce evidence they possess.

On March 6, 2014, a local RSS worker, Rajesh Kunte, 43, filed the defamation case against Gandhi over his speech at a rally in Bhiwandi. Kunte alleged that Gandhi had indirectly suggested that RSS workers killed Mahatma Gandhi. Acting on Kunte’s complaint, the magistrate court had on July 11, 2014, summoned Gandhi to face trial. On March 10, 2015, the Bombay high court turned down Gandhi’s plea to quash the defamation case and refused to give him more time. Gandhi then moved Supreme Court with a special leave petition seeking permission to challenge the high court decision. He later withdrew the petition, expressed his willingness to face trial and said he would not apologise.

Gandhi has appeared in the same court on couple of occasion over the past three years.

First Published: Jun 12, 2018 13:07 IST