The Supreme Court Monday sought an “explanation” within a week from Congress president Rahul Gandhi following a plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against him for allegedly attributing to the top court certain remarks in its Rafale matter order.
It was hearing a plea by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi who contended that Gandhi, while referring to the court’s April 10 order rejecting the Centre’s objections to the admissibility of certain documents submitted by review petitioners, had attributed his own statements about ‘chowkidar chor hai’ to the court ruling.
After the bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna clarified that it had not made any such observation, Union Minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asked the Election Commission to take “serious cognisance” of Gandhi’s comments, saying it amounted to violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
Prasad even played a video clip before reporters in which Gandhi can be heard saying “Supreme Court ne clear kar diya hai ki chowkidarji ne chori karwai (Supreme Court has made it clear that chowkidarji got the theft done)”.
Earlier, the bench said: “We make it clear that this Court had no occasion to record any view or finding or make any observation as allegedly attributed to the Court by the respondent… what was decided by this Court was a purely legal question of admissibility of certain documents to which objections were raised by the learned Attorney General.”
It said “no views, observations or findings should be attributed to the Court in political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the Court”.
Appearing for Lekhi, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the court had not said any such thing and had only decided on the admissibility of certain papers. The CJI replied, “you are right to the extent we didn’t say it”.
The bench asked Gandhi to file a response on or before April 22 and said the petitioner will be at liberty to file an additional affidavit if necessary. The court will hear the matter next on April 23.
Reacting to the developments in court, Union Minister Arun Jaitley, in a series of tweets, said: “In Rahul Gandhi’s politics, the Right to Free Speech includes the Right to Falsehood. Dynasts are also subject to the Supreme Court. Indian democracy does not permit them to rewrite Court orders. To manufacture a Court order for a political propaganda is a new low for Rahul Gandhi. The lower he sinks, the higher we rise.”
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party will give a comprehensive, strong and effective explanation to the Supreme Court. He said the BJP’s interpretation of Gandhi’s speech was completely distorted and “we will present to the Court how, why and in what manner”.
“Certainly nobody can suggest and nobody was intending to suggest and nobody has suggested that the Supreme Court in a judicial order will use political campaign words like ‘chowkidar chor’. How can that be the intention of anyone and it was certainly not Rahul Gandhi’s intention. It is being misled, distorted out of context and we will give a full fitting reply,” he said.