MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Monday directed a local court to defer hearing on a defamation complaint filed against Rahul Gandhi beyond December 20, which means the Congress leader would not be required to appear before the latter on November 25 as instructed earlier.
Gandhi was directed by the local court to appear before it on November 25 in the defamation complaint filed by one Mahesh Shrishrimal, who claims to be a BJP member.
The complaint against the Congress leader had been filed for his alleged "commander-in-thief" remark targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 over the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Gandhi had approached the HC challenging the summons issued to him in the case.
On Monday, when the Congress MP's plea came up for hearing before a single bench of Justice S K Shinde, advocate Rohan Mahadik, appearing for Shrishrimal, sought time to file a reply in form of an affidavit.
Gandhi's advocate Sudeep Pasbola said they do not have an objection if time is granted for filing the reply, but then the proceedings before the magistrate cannot go on.
The HC then adjourned hearing on the petition till December 16 while directing Shrishrimal to file his affidavit.
"In the meanwhile, the Metropolitan Magistrate shall defer proceedings into the complaint beyond December 20," Justice Shinde said.
The magistrate had initiated criminal proceedings against Gandhi in August 2019.
However, the Congress leader, in his petition before the HC, had claimed he learnt about the same only in July 2021.
The allegations of the complainant were that in September 2018, Gandhi had conducted a rally in Rajasthan during which defamatory statements were made against the Prime Minister.
Due to the said defamatory statements, Modi was allegedly trolled by various news channels and social media platforms.
As per the complaint, four days later, Gandhi purportedly commented on a video and posted it on his personal Twitter account, saying "The sad truth about India's commander-in-thief."
The complainant alleged that Gandhi was making "defamatory statements against Modi and by calling him 'commander-in-thief', he made direct allegation of theft against all members of the BJP and Indian citizens connected to Modi".
Gandhi stated in his petition filed through advocate Kushal Mor that the instant complaint was a classic example of a frivolous and vexatious litigation motivated by the sole purpose of furthering the complainant's latent political agenda.
It further said the complainant had no locus to file the complaint suit defamation can be initiated only by the person who has been allegedly defamed.
The Congress leader had sought quashing of the order of the magistrate and a stay on the proceedings pending hearing of the petition.