BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi files contempt plea against Rahul Gandhi for using phrase 'chowkidar chor hai' against Modi

Supreme Court agrees to hear the plea on April 15.

Updated - April 12, 2019 06:11 pm IST

Published - April 12, 2019 12:51 pm IST - New Delhi

Serious charges: Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference on the Rafale row in New Delhi on Tuesday. Sandeep Saxena

Serious charges: Rahul Gandhi addressing a press conference on the Rafale row in New Delhi on Tuesday. Sandeep Saxena

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi on Friday filed a criminal contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for using the phrase ' chowkidar chor hai ' against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice if India Ranjan Gogoi, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Ms. Lekhi, said Mr. Gandhi deliberately misinterpreted the recent dismissal by the Supreme Court of certain preliminary objections raised by the government against petitions seeking a review of the December 14, 2018 judgment, which upheld the 36 Rafale jets' deal.

Mr. Rohatgi said Mr. Gandhi purposefully gave a coloured interpretation to the judgment in order to personally attack Mr. Modi. He was was widely quoted on national television and in newspapers. Chief Justice Gogoi agreed to hear the contempt petition on April 15. On April 10, a Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi declared the court's unanimous support for freedom of Press in a democracy. The court refused the government’s plea to keep the Rafale jets’ purchase documents a secret and commended The Hindu for first bringing the documents into public domain by continually publishing them in a series of articles since February 2019. The government had claimed that the review pleas were based on secret Rafale documents unauthorisedly removed from the Ministry of Defence and leaked to the media.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had argued that “stolen” documents came under the protection of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). They were not admissible in evidence in a court of law. Claiming privilege, the government had wanted the court to ignore the documents, even if they were found to be germane to the Rafale case, and dismiss the review petitions at the preliminary stage. The court, however, had rubbished the government’s claim of privilege. It said that neither the OSA nor any other law empowered the government to stop the media from publishing the documents nor the court from examining them. Chief Justice Gogoi had said claiming privilege over the Rafale documents was an “exercise in utter futility”.

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