The stage was set for another political battle on Tuesday, with the Congress making it clear that its vice-president Rahul Gandhi would not apologise for saying that the RSS was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: instead, he will substantiate his accusation with historical facts and evidence in court to support his claim.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court observed that Mr. Gandhi should not have resorted to “collective denunciation” of an organisation and will have to face trial in the defamation case against him if he does not express regret.
“We have held it may be historically correct but the fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can’t make collective denunciation,” the court said.
“The question of Mr. Gandhi expressing regret or apology does not arise. Such a suggestion has been made in the past and not been accepted by Mr. Gandhi,” Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala said.
“Mr. Gandhi is a mature politician with intimate knowledge of historical facts. The Congress and Mr. Gandhi will defend these remarks at the appropriate forum. Since the matter is pending adjudication, we will not like to comment further,” Mr. Surjewala said.
Mr. Gandhi has challenged the constitutionality of the defamation proceedings as well as the order of the Bombay High Court where the summons was contested. While the bunch of petitions challenging the defamation provisions have been rejected, the appeal against the High Court order is pending before the Supreme Court in a Special Leave Petition.
Later at the official briefing, party spokesman Gaurav Gogoi, reiterating that Mr. Gandhi would fight the defamation case in court to “bring out the truth before everyone”, responded to a question on Tuesday’s observations by the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has made some observations. We would not like to comment on them. Nonetheless, we are confident that when the case is heard, we will present historical evidence and documents that support Rahul Gandhi’s claim. We respect the Supreme Court.”
The RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, meanwhile, accused the Congress of consistently trying to “spread lies” about it and assailed Mr. Gandhi for “avoiding trial” in a defamation case against him in Maharashtra’s Bhiwandi.