Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today told the Supreme Court that he had never blamed RSS as an institution that killed Mahatma Gandhi but had stated that a person associated with it was responsible for his assassination.
A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman, which was hearing the petition filed by Gandhi challenging the summons issued to him as an accused in a defamation case, said it will dispose of the petition if the complainant agreed.
The bench noted that the Congress leader had filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court while seeking quashing of the defamation complaint against him stating that, at an election rally, he had not blamed RSS as an institution for the assassination of Gandhi but a person associated with it.
The bench, which posted the matter for September 1, asked the complainant’s counsel and senior advocate U R Lalit to seek instruction whether the complainant was ready to end the case if Gandhi’s statement is taken on record.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Congress Vice President, drew the attention of the bench to the affidavit filed in the high court.
The bench, which heard the matter for about half-an-hour, said “what we understand is that the accused never blamed RSS as an institution that killed Mahatma Gandhi but the person associated with it.”
The apex court had on July 27 criticised the trial courtin Maharashtra for asking the police to probe the criminal defamation complaint lodged against Gandhi for his remarks allegedly accusing RSS for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
The apex court’s remarks had come after the same bench said that the Congress leader should not have resorted to “collective denunciation” of an organisation (RSS) and will have to face trial if he does not express regret.
Rajesh Mahadev Kunte, secretary of Bhiwandi unit of RSS, had alleged in his complaint that Gandhi told in an election rally at Sonale on March 6, 2015 that the “RSS people killed Gandhiji”. The case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra’s Thane district.
Earlier, the bench had questioned the speech and wondered “why he had made a speech quoting wrong historical fact”. The penal provisions make defamation an offence punishable with up to a two-year jail term.
Kunte had alleged that the Congress leader had sought to tarnish the reputation of RSS through his speech. Following the complaint, the magistrate’s court had initiated proceedings and issued notice to Gandhi directing him to appear before it. The Congress leader was summoned to appear before the trial court on January 6 this year.
Gandhi had then approached the High Court seeking exemption from appearance and quashing of the case. The High Court had dismissed the petition and refused to grant stay on its order, leading to an appeal in the Supreme Court.