Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Friday appeared before a magistrate court in Ahmedabad to seek bail in a criminal defamation case that has been filed against him by the Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank and its chairman Ajay Patel.
The suit had been filed based on Rahul Gandhi’s tweet on June 23, 2018, wherein Gandhi had said, “Congratulations Amit Shah ji, Director of Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank, on your bank winning first prize in the conversion of old notes to new race. Rs 750 crore in five days! Millions of Indians whose lives were destroyed by demonetisation salute your achievement! #ShahZyadaKhaGaya”
Interestingly, the bank and its chairman had taken objections to such allusions and had filed a criminal defamation suit in the Ahmedabad court, nearly ten months after Gandhi tweeted.
In Gujarat, three criminal defamation suits have been filed against Gandhi. A second criminal defamation suit has been filed by an active BJP member and Khadia ward corporator Krishnavadan Brahmbhatt, for calling BJP chief Amit Shah a “murder accused,” during Gandhi’s election campaign at Jabalpur on April 23. Gandhi had allegedly said, “Murder accused BJP chief Amit Shah, wah, kya shaan hai,” during a speech.
A third criminal defamation suit has been filed in a Surat court. The complaint has alleged that Gandhi defamed the Modi community when he compared Prime Minister Modi to economic offenders Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi and asked, in a public meeting in Karnataka in Bengaluru on April 13 Gandhi had allegedly said, “Why all chors (thieves) have the surname Modi”. The complainant in the Surat case is Purnesh Modi, a BJP MLA from Surat West and president of the Surat Modhvanik Samast Panch whose members include people of the Modi community.
In relation to the three criminal defamation suits in Gujarat, this is the first where he applied for bail and was granted so. Bail application in such cases can be allowed before the magistrate provided the accused has been arrested or if the accused has appeared before the magistrate court. The Surat court has issued summons and Gandhi is expected to appear before the court on July 16. In the second suit in Ahmedabad , Gandhi is expected to appear before the magistrate on August 9.
The bail granted by a magistrate in such cases does not imply restrictions. Advocate Iqbal Shaikh, representing Gandhi, said, “In such cases, the bail against which the surety is imposed, implies that if he fails to be present at the next hearing and there is no exemption application to account for his absence, the court will forfeit the surety amount and a non-bailable warrant can be issued. Upon every adjournment, as per the provisions, the accused is expected to be present in the court. However, under Criminal Procedure Code section 205, if his application is given for permanent exemption, he may remain absent under personal attendance. But otherwise, it is presumed the accused will remain present.”
The suit is expected to be heard next on September 7.