A magistrate court in Bhiwandi on Monday adjourned the hearing in the RSS defamation case involving Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi till March 3 for recording of his plea.
“The date granted for recording of his (Rahul’s) plea (which is equivalent to framing of charges) is March 3,” said Magistrate Tushar Vaze, adjourning the case.
The case against Mr. Rahul was filed by a local RSS functionary Rajesh Kunte over the former’s speech in Bhiwandi on March 6, 2014, in the run up to Lok Sabha polls.
During the rally, Mr. Rahul had allegedly claimed, “The RSS people had killed Gandhi.”
Prior to the adjournment, Mr. Rahul’s lawyers Ashok Mundergi and Narayan Iyer told the court that they have not received the copy of the entire newspaper (which published the news item on the Congress leader), but only the cuttings.
Mr. Mundergi told the court that he will have to go through the entire documents and he will argue if needed, before the plea is recorded. He then, along with Mr. Iyer, moved an adjournment application.
However, Nandu Phadke, advocate of the complainant in the case, urged the court that Mr. Rahul’s plea may be recorded today, but his request was turned down.
Mr. Rahul arrived in the court in Bhiwandi at around 12.30 p.m. amid tight security, accompanied by senior Congress leaders Ashok Chavan and Sanjay Nirupam, besides party supporters.
As the magistrate was dictating some order in another case, Mr. Rahul was made to wait till 1.30 p.m. before his case was called out. He was seen exchanging pleasantries and speaking with Mr. Kunte.
Later, in a brief interaction with waiting mediapersons outside the court, Mr. Rahul said, “My fight is against the ideology which killed Gandhiji. I remember Gandhiji. My fight is against the ideology which removed his poster from Khadi (KVIC) posters.”
“Gandhiji is in the heart of every Indian. He was killed but his thought can’t be erased,” Mr. Rahul, who was heading for a rally in poll-bound State of Goa, said.
At the last hearing in November, the Bhiwandi court had granted him bail in the case after former Union Minister Shivraj Patil stood as surety.
When Mr. Mundargi had requested for a date and sought the court to exempt Mr. Rahul from personal appearance, owing to his political commitments, the complainant’s lawyer had urged that Mr. Rahul may be treated as an “ordinary citizen” and adjourned the hearing till today.
On September 1, 2016, Mr. Rahul had preferred to face the trial as an accused in the defamation case, submitting before the Supreme Court that he stood by “every word” of his statement.
The Congress vice-president had expressed his readiness to face the trial after the apex court refused to interfere with the proceedings pending against him before the trial court.
He had then withdrawn the appeal filed by him against the Bombay High Court judgement refusing to quash the defamation case and summons issued to him by the trial court.
The apex court also declined Mr. Rahul’s plea that he be exempted from personal appearance before the Bhiwandi court which had taken cognisance of the complaint of the RSS functionary by summoning him as an accused in the case.