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Posted at: Apr 23, 2019, 12:50 PM; last updated: Apr 24, 2019, 7:08 AM (IST)

SC issues contempt notice to Rahul over 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' jibe on Rafale verdict

SC issues contempt notice to Rahul over 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' jibe on Rafale verdict
Rahul Gandhi

Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 23

In a setback to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to him on a contempt petition by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi for his ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ jibe at PM Modi wrongly attributed to the court’s recent verdict on admissibility of certain documents in Rafale case.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, however, said, “Personal presence of the alleged contemnor (Gandhi) is dispensed with, for the present.”

The Bench—which had earlier asked Gandhi to explain his comments—posted it for hearing on April 30 along with petitions filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and others seeking review of its December 2018 verdict rejecting probe into Rafale fighter jet deal.

The notice was issued to the Congress president, a day after he expressed regret over his controversial ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ jibe at PM Modi attributed to a recent Supreme Court verdict on admissibility of certain documents in connection with hearing of review petition in the Rafale case. But he had not tendered an apology to the court.

On behalf of Lekhi, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi pointed out though Gandhi admitted having made a wrong statement without reading the court’s verdict on Rafale, he didn’t apologise.

“The apology is in a bracket. According to me it is not an apology,” Rohatgi said terming Gandhi’s affidavit as a mere lip-service. He said he needed time to respond to it.

“We have seen what is there within the bracket,” said the Bench – which also included Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi defended the Congress president, saying he has humbly admitted his mistake and expressed regret. He urged the court to close the case against Gandhi as opponents were misusing it for electoral gains during the ongoing Lok Sabha campaign. But the Bench didn’t oblige him.

When Singhvi said there was no notice issued in this matter, the CJI said it can cure the defect by issuing the notice of contempt.

“On the basis of the statements made by Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, learned senior counsel appearing for the alleged contemnor, we deem it proper to issue notice in the matter,” said the Bench in its order.

In his reply to top court’s order seeking an explanation on Lekhi’s contempt petition, Gandhi had said his statement was misused by his political opponents.

“My statement was made in the heat of the political campaigning. It has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this court had said ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’,” Gandhi had said in his affidavit.

“I 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,” he had said.

He said there was no “slightest intention” to “insinuate” anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner as he held the top court in the highest esteem.

“There is no intention, direct, indirect, remote, implied or an attempt in any other manner to violate any court order, obstruct the administration of justice, or prejudice or interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings, or scandalise the court in any manner,” he said.

The court had on April 15 said, “We make it clear that this court had no occasion to record any view or finding or make any observation as allegedly attributed to the court by the respondent inasmuch as what was decided by this court was a purely legal question of admissibility of certain documents to which objections were raised by the learned Attorney General,” the Bench had said.

“…no views, observations or findings should be attributed to the court in political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court,” it had said.

The Congress president had on April 10 claimed that the court had made it “clear” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “committed a theft”. He had made the statement while interacting with journalists in Amethi after filing his nomination papers. He is contesting against BJP leader and Union Minister Smriti Irani.

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