NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday found fault with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his remark that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The court made it clear that he will have to face trial in a defamation case if he does not apologise for his statement.
Though a Bench of justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman did not take the name of the RSS, it said Rahul should not have made collective denunciation of an organisation. “The fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can’t make collective denunciation,” it said while slating the hearing for July 27.
“Freedom is not crippled or curbed. What is curbed is defamatory speech. What the writers, politicians, critics or antagonists say, you must have great magnitude to swallow,” the Bench said. However, the court expressed concern over how Rahul made a speech quoting wrong historical facts and observed, “What we have to see is whether the petitioner’s allegations come under Section 499 (defamation) of IPC or not. Judgment is already there. You have to face trial, if you don’t express regret.” The Bench was hearing an appeal filed by Rahul seeking quashing of a criminal defamation case ordered by a magisterial court in Maharashtra. Rahul had moved the SC last year seeking quashing of the case. The SC had then granted interim stay on the proceedings before the magisterial court.
Earlier also, Rahul refused to accept the court’s suggestion to express regret over his statement blaming RSS for Gandhi’s killing to close the defamation case and decided to contest it. Senior counsel Harin Raval, appearing for Rahul, said whatever was said in the speech was on the basis of government records and the decision of the Punjab and Haryana HC and he was not referring to RSS directly. The Bench after perusing the HC judgment, said it only says that Nathuram Godse was an RSS worker and added that Godse killed Gandhi and RSS killed Gandhi are two different things.
RSS prachar pramukh Manmohan Vaidya said the Congress had been consistently trying to spread lies and baseless allegations about the RSS and the SC ruling has exposed it.