Contending that Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination was a result of “destructive philosophy” of those associated with the RSS, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has moved the Supreme Court for quashing a criminal case lodged against him for his comments against the saffron outfit during an election rally last year.
“As per the petitioner, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was a result of destructive philosophy of the persons associated with the RSS. It was also clearly suggested (in the speech) that the assassins were associated or affiliated with the RSS,” said Rahul while justifying his speech in Maharashtra’s Bhiwandi in March 2014.
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Stating that he never accused the RSS as an “institution of crime”, the Congress leader told court it was proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the RSS had been consistently pursuing a majoritarian agenda and attached utmost importance to the propagation of its self-proclaimed version of Hindu culture and nationalism.
“The RSS is a force behind the BJP as a political party and provides both the ideological ammunition as also the cadre for the elections. It was, therefore, essential for the petitioner to state the position of his party clearly and unambiguously before his audience,” the petition, settled by senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani and others, added.
He said it was “futile to expect or to suggest that the RSS would not figure in any major election speech by a speaker opposing the BJP in the electoral arena and that once the RSS had chosen to actively participate in the electoral process, it was bound to attract all legitimate criticism”.
RSS worker Rajesh Kunte had filed a complaint against the Congress vice-president under criminal defamation charges of Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC. After he was issued a summon by a Bhiwandi magisterial court, Rahul had requested the Bombay High Court to quash the proceedings, but his plea was dismissed on March 10.
Taking a cue from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, Rahul has filed a criminal writ petition in the top court, challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 in IPC. It is on Swamy’s petition that the SC has sought the government’s stand on de-criminalising defamation.
The Congress leader has sought striking down of the two sections since, he said, they dampened citizen’s drive to engage in legitimate public critique, besides potentially causing high-level political misdeeds. On Wednesday, Pavani mentioned the matter for an urgent listing and the case will now be heard Thursday.
Rahul has claimed the “antiquated” provisions had no relevance in the current society and it had a “chilling effect” on citizens who want to use the Internet as a medium for public discourse. The petition described them as “curbs on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression” and said a maximum punishment of two years in jail could not be said to be proportional to the gravity of offence.