Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Thursday pleaded “not guilty” before a Mumbai local court in connection with a defamation case filed by an RSS worker against him for allegedly linking journalist Gauri Lankesh’s killing with the organisation. He was granted bail on a surety of Rs 15,000. Former Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad stood as surety for
Gandhi. The matter has been posted for further hearing on September 22
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury who is also named in the case appeared before the court today and pleaded not guilty.
Talking to reporters outside the court, Gandhi who quit as Congress chief yesterday said, “This is a fight of ideology. I am with the poor and farmers. The fight (against BJP) will continue with 10 times more vigour.” Gandhi who landed in Mumbai on Thursday morning was accompanied by Mallikarjun Kharge and Milind Deora.
As Rahul Gandhi reached the court, around 150 Congress supporters held placards outside the building andshouted slogans asking Gandhi to take back his resignation as the party’s president. Congress workers also shouted similar slogans outside Mumbai airport when Gandhi landed here this morning.
In 2017, RSS Swayam Sevak, Dhrutiman Joshi had filed a defamation case against Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury for ‘defaming the RSS’ following the murder of Lankesh in Bengaluru. Joshi had also made the Congress, its former president Sonia Gandhi and the CPI(M) as a party to his complaint.
The Mazgaon metropolitan magistrate’s court, in February, issued summons to Rahul and Yechury. It, however, dismissed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi and the CPI(M), saying a party cannot be held liable for comments made by individuals.
Joshi alleged that within 24 hours of Lankesh’s death, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that “anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP, against the ideology of the RSS, is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed.” The complaint also alleged that Yechury stated that it was the RSS’ ideology and RSS people who killed the journalist who was known for trenchant criticism of right-wing politics.
“Statements made by the accused and the respective political parties are in utmost sense defamatory and belittle the RSS in the eyes of the common public. There was a definite move by the accused to tarnish the image of the RSS, without citing any proof,” Joshi alleged in his complaint. “For a mere political score, the accused had unnecessarily dragged the name of RSS and it in a move to rake up negative sentiments in the minds of the people against the RSS,” it read.
Rahul Gandhi is facing another defamation case at Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district, filed by a local RSS worker, for allegedly blaming the Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.