Congress president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday “unconditionally apologised” to the Supreme Court for attributing to it his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ remark, days after the top court expressed dissatisfaction over his affidavit which had only expressed “regret”.
In a fresh three-page affidavit filed by advocate Sunil Fernandes, Gandhi said: “The Deponent unconditionally apologises for the wrongful attributions to this Hon’ble Court. The Deponent further states that any such attributions were entirely unintentional, non-wilful and inadvertent.”
He prayed the court “to accept the… affidavit and close the present contempt proceedings”.
The affidavit was submitted in response to a petition by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi seeking contempt proceedings against Gandhi for his alleged remarks in the wake of the April 10 verdict of the Supreme Court regarding the admissibility of certain documents produced by the review petitioners in the Rafale aircraft purchase matter.
After the Supreme Court rejected the Centre’s objections to the admissibility of the documents, Gandhi had said “Supreme Court ne clear kar diya hai ki chowkidar ji ne chori karwayi (Supreme Court has made it clear that chowkidarji got the theft done)”.
Replying to Lekhi’s petition, Gandhi on April 22 conveyed his “regret” to the court for the attribution. He explained that the statement was made “in the heat of political campaigning” and “it has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this Court had said Chowkidar Chor Hai!”.
“On 10.04.2019, at the time of and in my statement, the issues relating to court proceedings unfortunately got juxtaposed and mingled with a political slogan being used extensively by answering Respondent’s party as well as answering Respondent for the last several months, which is a matter of intense and frenzied public debate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. That slogan is ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’… It is unfortunate that this slogan got intermingled with my comments on and references to the Apex Court’s order… My statement was made in the heat of political campaigning”, he said.
A day after he expressed regret, the court issued formal notice to Gandhi who in response filed a second affidavit repeating his regret.
Opposing the affidavit, Lekhi said Gandhi had not tendered unconditional apology and was even considering the contempt proceedings as “political campaigning”. Instead of tendering unconditional apology, Gandhi “has sought to reiterate the allegations…” and “has tried to obfuscate the issue,” she said.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Lekhi, pointed out that the word “regret” appeared in brackets in the affidavit.
Hearing the matter on April 29, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi also took exception to the affidavit conveying “regret” in brackets. It said Gandhi must admit his mistake or face contempt.
“Where have we said all these? How then can you attribute it to us?” the CJI asked senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, referring to the alleged remarks made on April 10.
“Any person can make a mistake, but having made it, you should go ahead and admit it,” said Justice S K Kaul who shared the bench with the CJI. The judge also asked “are you not contradicting yourself… In one place, you said you did not intend to say it and then you say you regret saying it”.
Singhvi replied that Rahul had expressed “complete regret”. But the CJI asked him “where have you expressed complete regret?… What is the meaning of expressing regret in brackets?… Where is the apology in your affidavit?”.
Singhvi then agreed to submit a written apology to the court. Allowing the request, the bench, however, made it clear that it will decide whether to admit the affidavit.
The court will take up the fresh affidavit along with the Rafale review petitions on May 10.
Outside the court, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told a press conference: “Rahul Gandhi had to apologise to the Supreme Court for attributing lies to the Supreme Court. Congress is a habitual liar. This is political bankruptcy. This is desperation.”