The comment ‘ chowkidar chor hai ’ was made with rhetorical flourish in the heat of political campaigning, Congress party president Rahul Gandhi explained to the apex court on Monday.
It was said in an atmosphere of vindication at the Supreme Court deciding to reopen the Rafale case despite government efforts to shut out new facts and documents published about the purchase of the 36 jets, he said.
Mr. Gandhi was responding to a criminal contempt petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi, who accused him of misrepresenting court proceedings by attributing the comment to the apex court, and thus, causing prejudice in the minds of the people against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In his 19-page reply, Mr. Gandhi said ‘ chowkidar chor hai ’ is a political slogan used by the Congress party extensively for months. The slogan has been at the centre of “intense and frenzied debate” during the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.
He regretted how the political slogan unfortunately got “juxtaposed and intermingled” with the April 10 decision of the apex court to review the Rafale case. The review petitions were filed against the apex court judgment of December 14, upholding the Rafale jets’ deal.
Mr. Gandhi said the comment was made in a purely political context to counter the “misinformation campaign” that the Supreme Court gave the government a clean chit on December 14.
He said the “unfortunate juxtaposition” was misused by his political opponents. They wanted to project, for political gain, that he had deliberately suggested that the Supreme Court said ‘ chowkidar chor hai ’.
‘Clear and obvious’
“Nothing could be farther from my mind,” Mr. Gandhi said. He said it would be both clear and obvious for anyone that a court, much less the apex court, would adopt, endorse or uphold a political slogan. No court would ever do that, he said.
Mr. Gandhi said his comments were based from the media, workers and activists surrounding him. He had no access to the April 10 judgment at the time. He said the comments merely reflected the “general sense of victory and exhilaration amongst those who had been campaigning for inquiry into the Rafale case, which is one of the most prominent political and social issues in the country for many months”.
“There is no intention, direct, indirect, remote or implied or an attempt in any other manner to violate any court order, obstruct administration of justice or prejudice or interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings or scandalise the court in any manner,” he said.
List of instances
Mr. Gandhi's reply cited a list of instances when BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Modi and the members of the Council of Ministers, had allegedly attributed comments to the Supreme Court post the December 14 judgment in the Rafale case.
The Congress party president said there was no question of him “wilfully intending to prejudice” Mr Modi. He said he was of the “firm belief” that Mr. Modi was “involved in misdemeanors” in the Rafale deal.
He said he wanted “take this opportunity to reaffirm his stand and belief of his party that Rafale deal is a tainted transaction and a gross and brazen abuse of executive power and a leading example of the corruption of the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which deserves to be investigated thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee and proceeded against thereafter”.
“In any event, misrepresentation of a public figure cannot be the basis of and is irrelevant to a contempt petition,” Mr. Gandhi said.