Reiterating his contentions before the Bombay High Court in 2014, Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that he had never accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as an “institution” for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, but only persons associated with the organisation.
A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra seemed to be on the same page as Mr. Gandhi, who is accused of criminal defamation for his controversial pre-poll rally speech at Bhiwandi in Maharashtra in 2014.
The court observed that “what we understand from the statement the accused (Mr. Gandhi) never blamed RSS as an institution that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi but the persons associated with it”. The court said this after reading from a December 15, 2014 affidavit submitted by Mr. Gandhi in the Bombay High Court in the same case.
“The assassination of Mahatma was a result of destructive philosophy of the persons associated with the RSS. It was also clearly suggested that the assassins were associated or affiliated with the RSS. He never accused RSS as an institution of the crime,” Mr. Gandhi, represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mahalakshmi Pavani, repeated the 2014 affidavit.
The 2014 affidavit had also explained the context of Mr. Gandhi's reference to Sardar Vallabhai Patel in the same speech. This bit had also come under scanner.
“The second part deals with the attempt of the Opposition to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Patel, an eminent leader of the Congress during the pre-independence and post-independence period. It is highlighted in the speech that Sardar Patel had written about RSS candidly and clearly. In other words, one gets the impression that Sardar Patel had been critical of the RSS,” Mr. Gandhi said in his affidavit.
The affidavit in 2014 had also said that “it is again proved beyond a shadow of doubt that RSS has been consistently pursuing a majoritarian agenda and attaches utmost importance to the propagation of its own self-proclaimed version of Hindu culture and its own self-proclaimed version of Hindu nationalism”.
The Bench asked senior advocate U.R. Lalit to take instructions from his client, complainant RSS activist Rajesh Kunte.
The court wanted to know from Mr. Kunte whether he would be satisfied by Mr. Gandhi's statement in court that he had not blamed the RSS as an institution for the murder.
Mr. Lalit submitted that nothing more would remain in the case his client conveyed his satisfaction. The Bench posted the matter for September 1.
In the previous hearing, the Bench had objected to the Magistrate court's action of directing the Maharashtra State Police to investigate the defamation complaint lodged by Mr. Kunte instead of putting the onus on the RSS worker to prima facie prove his case against the Amethi MP.
The court had observed that in such private complaints of defamation cases the onus is on the complainant to produce the evidence and witnesses before a Magistrate court.
Mr. Kunte had alleged in his complaint that Mr. Gandhi's comments amounted to “imputations against the RSS and its people with malafide motive to harm the reputation of RSS, its followers, people, swayamsevaks".