By Narendra Gupta. Photograph by Azad Shrivastav
The court fixed August 10 as the next date of hearing, when the actual trial will begin
Congress president Rahul Gandhi appeared yesterday before a Bhiwandi court in connection with a defamation case filed by Rajesh Kunte, a RSS secretary from Bhiwandi, during the 2014 polls.
Gandhi pleaded not guilty in the case.
According to Narayan Iyer, the lawyer who represented Gandhi, "The charge has been framed against Rahul Gandhi under section 500 (Defamation) of Indian Penal Code (IPC). In September 2017, Gandhi's case was rejected by Bombay High Court so he withdrew his petition and filed a plea in the Supreme Court, challenging the case."
"Judge A I Shaikh, ordered on Tuesday for summon trial. In summon trial, detailed record of evidence is collected and produced before court by both parties,” he added.
Under section 500, a person found guilty of defamation faces simple imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years, or with fine, or both.
The court fixed August 10 as the next date of hearing, when the actual trial will begin. Emerging from the court, Gandhi said if need be, he would be present in the court again.
"Let them (the BJP and the RSS) slap as many cases as they want against me. Ours is a fight for ideology. We will fight them and win," he told reporters outside the court.
On May 2, the court had asked Gandhi to appear before it yesterday.
Gandhi, who arrived in Mumbai yesterday morning, reached the magistrate's court at 11.05 am amid heavy security cover and was greeted by supporters who raised slogans in his favour.
He was accompanied by Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan and some other party leaders.
In the courtroom, Gandhi's counsel Iyer and the complainant's lawyer Dharghalkar argued over the issue of the submissions made by Gandhi in the High Court where he had submitted the transcript of his speech made during the said election rally at Bhiwandi on March 6, 2014.
The issue of taking it on record in this court was hotly debated and remained inconclusive.
"As per the charge, you (Gandhi) on March 6, 2014, in a rally held for elections at Bhiwandi, Thane, defamed the organisation to which the complainant belongs," the judge said while reading out the charge.
"Your speech, which was telecast on channels and also published in newspapers, damaged the reputation of the complainant and his organisation and you thereby committed an offence under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)," he said.
After the court proceeding was completed, Rahul walked out and while addressing the media, he said, PM Narendra Modi is paying full attention to my case, but does not bother about the rising prices of petrol and large scale unemployment.”
Addressing a rally in Bhiwandi in March 2014, Gandhi had allegedly said the RSS was involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Following this statement RSS secretary in Bhiwandi, Rajesh Kunte filed a criminal defamation case against him.