Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday appeared before a Surat court in a defamation case and pleaded not guilty.
BJP MLA Purnesh Modi had filed a complaint against Gandhi for his remark “why all thieves share the Modi surname” during Lok Sabha elections campaign earlier this year. Chief Judicial Magistrate B H Kapadia had in May issued summons to Gandhi after admitting the complaint.
Saying the defamation case filed against him was by his “political opponents, desperate to silence me”, the Gandhi took to Twitter and thanked Congress workers for their “support and solidarity”.
I am in Surat today to appear in a defamation case filed against me by my political opponents, desperate to silence me.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 10, 2019
After Gandhi’s plea was recorded, his lawyers moved an application seeking a permanent exemption from personal appearance in the next hearings. After Modi’s lawyers raised objection to the exemption plea, the court said it will decide on the plea on December 10, reports PTI.
The court said Gandhi is not required to remain present during the next hearing on that date.
In his complaint, Purnesh Modi, the MLA from Surat-West seat, had claimed Gandhi had defamed the entire Modi community by his remark “how come all thieves have Modi as common surname”. He was referring to an election rally where Gandhi asked, “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi…how come they all have Modi as common surname? How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”
During the last hearing in July, the court had granted Rahul Gandhi exemption from personal appearance for that hearing and fixed October 10 as the next date of hearing.
Earlier, asked about Rahul Gandhi’s court appearance, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said, “He was summoned so he has come here. Let the law take its own course. We will see when the court takes a decision. Whatever the judge says will be done,” reports ANI.
Defending Gandhi’s alleged comment, another Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said, “In a democracy, party in power should tolerate criticism of opposition. Rahul ji had said Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi are thieves, and Narendra Modi is a failure. BJP connected his statement to Modi community and insulted them.”
Rahul Gandhi will appear in another case in Ahmedabad on Friday at 3pm. The case has been filed by a local BJP corporator Brahmbhatt for the Congress leader’s alleged comment against Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah.
The Union Home Minister on Wednesday targeted Rahul Gandhi for being on “holiday” during assembly elections and asked him to come to Haryana and spell out his stance on abrogation of Article 370.
Addressing an election rally in Haryana, Shah said, “Congress party had opposed triple talaq bill, surgical strikes, airstrike and removal of Article 370. When elections are being held in Haryana and Maharashtra, Rahul Gandhi is on a holiday. I want to tell Rahul Gandhi you should come to Haryana and tell people whether you support the removal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir or not.”
Shah’s jibe at Gandhi came amid media reports suggesting that the former Congress chief had travelled abroad ahead of assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana.
Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address election meetings in Maharashtra on 13th and 15th October and Haryana on 14th October.
(With inputs from agencies)