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A week after he told the Supreme Court that he never meant to blame the entire RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Thursday withdrew his plea from the apex court for quashing of criminal defamation charges and said he would rather stand trial.
Rahul will have to appear before the magistrate in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra on November 16 because a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton F Nariman rejected his plea to grant him liberty not to appear in person and let his counsel represent him.
“We will not grant any exemption (from personal appearance)… there is a procedure prescribed under Section 205 of the CrPC. You make your application there,” the bench said after Rahul’s counsel Kapil Sibal requested the court to relax the condition of personal appearance. Under Section 205, a magistrate may dispense with personal attendance of the accused and permit him to appear via his pleader.
Sibal had earlier submitted before the court: “I will never withdraw my word (on RSS). I stand by every word I said in my (2014) speech and I shall also repeat it in future. I stand by it today and I will stand by it in future. I am ready to go to trial.”
Sibal’s response was prompted by the contention of complainant’s lawyer U R Lalit who said the RSS was willing to bury the hatchet only if Rahul recorded his statement in the apex court that he did not implicate the organisation in any manner for the killing.
Lalit said that as counsel for the RSS, he was justified in seeking a statement on record to test the bonafide of Rahul. He said Rahul and Congress were not bothered about Nathuram Godse and that they had made political capital in the last 60 years by targeting the RSS, especially to attract minority voters.
Lalit and Sibal were making their submissions following a suggestion by the court last week that it could drop criminal charges against Rahul if complainant Rajesh Kunte was satisfied with the clarification that the Congress leader had never meant to blame the whole of the RSS for the assassination.
With the counsels not finding any meeting ground, the bench decided to wrap up Rahul’s appeal for quashing the criminal defamation charges and dismissed the petition as withdrawn.
“Mr Lalit, learned senior counsel who had to take instructions, has submitted that the petitioner (Rahul) should make a statement in a particular manner. Mr Kapil Sibal, learned senior counsel, submitted that the petitioner shall go by whatever has been stated in the writ petition preferred before the Bombay High Court,” the order stated.
“Having heard learned counsel for the parties, when we expressed our opinion that we are not inclined to interfere, Mr Sibal sought leave of this court to withdraw the special leave petition. The special leave petition is dismissed as withdrawn,” the bench said.
In March 2014, while addressing an election rally in Bhiwandi, Rahul had said, “RSS people killed Gandhiji and today their people talk of him. They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji.”
Local RSS leader Kunte had lodged a complaint in a magisterial court which issued summons to Rahul. This compelled the Congress leader to seek quashing of criminal proceeding before the Bombay High Court but his petition was dismissed. He challenged the High Court order in the top court, apart from a writ petition assailing the constitutional validity of the law on criminal defamation. There was a stay on further proceeding in the Bhiwandi case until the apex court in May ruled in favour of retention of criminal defamation in the IPC.