The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his remark that RSS is behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, while prima facie indicating that he will have to face trial for criminal defamation and prove his innocence.
A Bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, said it would be entirely up to him to prove on merits that he had made the comments during a poll rally in public good.
The court admonished Mr. Gandhi for making such "collective" remarks.
The court agreed to hear detailed arguments on Mr. Gandhi's petition on July 27.
The hearing saw the Bench adopt a stentorian tone quite different from November last, when it >offered Mr. Gandhi an opportunity to express regret over the remarks and give the issue a "decent burial".
But Mr. Gandhi's lawyers refused the proposal and opted to argue the case on merits in the apex court.
Mr. Gandhi's comments are alleged to have been made in March 2014 during a parliamentary election rally at Bhiwandi in Thane district of Maharashtra. He was charged with criminal defamation for allegedly referring to the “assassin of Mahatma Gandhi and his RSS background in his election speech.”
Mr. Gandhi is alleged to have said that “Gandhiji was shot dead by RSS people and their people talk of Gandhiji”.
The comment led to a criminal complaint being filed by RSS activist Rajesh Kunte against Mr. Gandhi. Mr. Kunte termed the comment "false, frivolous, baseless and wanton allegations, imputations against the RSS and its people with mala fide motive to harm the reputation of the RSS, its followers, people, swayamsevaks".
The apex court, on May 7, stayed the defamation proceedings before a magistrate court in Bhiwandi. Mr. Gandhi has also challenged the constitutionality of criminal defamation, contending that it has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.