‘Chowkidar chor hai’: Rahul expresses ‘regret’ in affidavit against contempt plea

Political slogan unintentionally intermingled with SC proceedings in a moment of euphoria, says Congress president Rahul Gandhi in counter-affidavit identical to the earlier “explanation” filed by him.

April 29, 2019 12:35 pm | Updated April 30, 2019 07:45 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Congress president Rahul Gandhi. File

Congress president Rahul Gandhi. File

A 28-page formal response from Congress president Rahul Gandhi to a criminal contempt plea expresses ‘regret’ for unintentionally intermingling political slogan “chowkidar chor hai” with Supreme Court proceedings in a moment of euphoria, but has no word ‘apology’.

Mr. Gandhi’s counter-affidavit is rather a carbon copy of the “explanation” filed by him earlier in the Supreme Cour t about the circumstances of his comment.

Like the ''explanation,'' the affidavit falls short of offering an unconditional apology to the court. However, in the last paragraph, Mr. Gandhi “undertakes that he will not attribute any views, observations or findings to the court in political addresses to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court.”

Lekhi’s plea

The affidavit wants the court to dismiss BJP lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi’s criminal contempt petition against him with costs.

The affidavit follows a notice issued by the court on April 23 on Ms. Lekhi’s petition, which stated that Mr. Gandhi had wrongly attributed the comment to the court judgement of April 10. In the order, the court agreed to hear the Rafale case review petitions on the basis of new publishment of documents about the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to hear both the contempt plea and the Rafale review petitions on April 30. However, the government has expressed some difficulties in filing a response to the review petitions.

In the affidavit, Mr. Gandhi reiterates what he said in his earlier explanation that the comment was made with rhetorical flourish in the heat of political campaigning. It was said in an atmosphere of vindication at the Supreme Court deciding to reopen the Rafale case despite the government’s efforts to shut out new facts and documents published about the purchase of the 36 jets. It was a political slogan used by the Congress extensively for months. The slogan has been at the centre of “intense and frenzied debate” in the Lok Sabha poll campaign, he says.

“Juxtaposed and intermingled” with court’s April 10 decision

Mr. Gandhi regrets that it unfortunately got “juxtaposed and intermingled” with the April 10 court decision. The review petitions were filed against the December 14 judgement upholding the Rafale jets’ deal.

The comment was made in a purely political context to counter the “misinformation campaign” that the court gave the government a clean chit on December 14. The “unfortunate juxtaposition” was misused by his political opponents. They wanted to project, for political gain, he had deliberately suggested that the court said “chowkidar chor hai,” Mr. Gandhi says. “Nothing could be farther from my mind.”

He says it will be both clear and obvious for anyone that a court, much less the apex court, will adopt, endorse or uphold a political slogan. No court will ever do that. His comments were based from the media, workers and activists surrounding him. He had no access to the April 10 judgement at the time. The comment 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”.

He says, “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.”

‘PM too had attributed comments to SC’

Mr. Gandhi cites a list of instances when BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the members of the Council of Ministers, had allegedly attributed comments to the Supreme Court post the December 14 Rafale case judgement. There is no question of him “willfully intending to prejudice” Mr Modi. He is of the “firm belief” that Mr. Modi is “involved in misdemeanours” in the Rafale deal.

Mr. Gandhi says he wants “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”.

He adds, “In any event, misrepresentation of a public figure cannot be the basis of and is irrelevant to a contempt petition.”

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