Rahul Gandhi to face trial for making defamatory comments against RSS as Congress decided not to apolgise even after Supreme Court’s observation
‘Rahul Gandhi must apologise for his defamatory remarks on RSS or he should face the trial in Defamation case filed against him. Rahul Gandhi should not have resorted to collective denunciation of RSS’, said Supreme Court on July 19 on Rahul Gandhi’s remarks blaming RSS for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi during an election campaign at Bhiwandi in Maharashtra on March 6, 2014.
Litigation as a tool to arm twist or silence one’s opponent is not new in politics. Independent India, specially the post Emergency period (1975 onwards), has seen this instrument being used extensively and effectively around election time. One such episode that took place in 2014 during the hard-fought Lok Sabha elections, has attracted the attention of Supreme Court. This can change the way politics is done in this country, for the better.
Kapur Commission on Gandhi’s assassination
The 1969 Report of Jeevan Lal Kapur, better known as the Kapur Commission clearly and categorically absolves the RSS of any (moral or legal) responsibility of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. It states: “RSS as such were not responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, meaning thereby that one could not name the organisation as such as being responsible for that most diabolical crime, the murder of the apostle of peace. It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS”.
Like all previous examples of such episodes, where the accused dismisses the case nonchalantly calling it ‘politically motivated’ or ‘with malafide intention’, Rahul Gandhi too tried to wiggle out but for the Supreme Court, which in a terse and pointed remark on July 19, 2016, stated, ‘Rahul Gandhi should not have resorted to collective denunciation of RSS. He must apologise for his defamatory remarks on RSS or face trial’. “You can’t make wholesale denunciation of an organisation. There is a difference between Nathuram Godse killing Mahatma Gandhi and the RSS killing him,” a bench headed by justice Dipak Misra said.
Rahul – Not the ONLY Congress Leader
Rahul is not the only Congress leader who has been reprimanded for levying false and baseless allegations on RSS. Senior Congress leaders like Arjun Singh and Digvijay Singh have been pulled up for such attempts in the past. The former HRD Minister, Arjun Singh was sued in Tamil Nadu (Chennai) and Haryana (Yamunanagar) for holding RSS responsible for Gandhi’s assassination. The litigation ended with his death in 2011. Digvijay Singh was sued in a Gwalior court for claiming the involvement of Sangh’s activists in bomb blasts.
Welcoming the Supreme Court (SC) remark, RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh, Dr Manmohan Vaidya, said, on July 19, “Congress had been consistently trying to spread lies and baseless allegations about RSS. Today’s Supreme Court ruling has exposed the Congress”. About Gandhi’s assassination, he said RSS was deeply saddened by the demise of the Mahatma. The then RSS Sarsanghchalak, MS Golwalkar’s telegram on 30 January 1948, to Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and Devdas Gandhi expresses this sentiment. It reads: “Shocked at the news of cruel fatal attack and tragic loss of greatest personality. Country’s loss unbounded in these critical times. God help shoulder responsibilities grown heavier and fulfill the void caused by the loss of incomparable unifier. MS Golwalkar.”
Dr. Vaidya went on to add that publications detailing the history of the Sangh have been available for long, but the RSS will now actively pursue an “image correction exercise”, by equipping its cadre with important facts on all issues pertaining to the Sangh. For instance, report of the inquiry into the conspiracy to murder Mahatma Gandhi (Kapur Commission) is being distributed among the cadres to equip them with critical knowledge of facts to counter anyone who accuses the Sangh of being complicit in the Mahatma’s assassination. The “perception correction” exercise will be fought on hard facts and not rhetoric, said Dr. Vaidya. The RSS wants its cadres to be armed with “facts” to counter what it calls “propaganda” against it and will intensify its outreach with the help of internet and e-books and fight the “misinformation campaign” against the organisation. The SC remark will provide an added impetus by preventing people with vested interests, from maligning theRSS and its affiliates, for achieving their petty ends.
This sentiment of atoning the wrong and moving in the right direction that the SC remark has ushered, is voiced by intellectuals as well. Prof. Rakesh Sinha, a reknowned Professor of Political Science and an authority on RSS has this to say, “The younger generation needs to be told that the RSS has been politically and legally exonerated. It has been proved legally that the RSS had no role in Gandhiji’s assassination, yet the Congress has been spreading wrong information about the ban on the RSS and its subsequent lifting”. Thus, the era of uttering anything, irresponsibly, in the name of Constitutional right to freedom of speech, is over. The Honourable Court said: “Freedom is not crippled or cut. Everyday a writer, politician will speak something. The purpose of the law is not to turn people into litigants.”
For the common man, the Supreme Court intervention is a welcome relief. One can now hope and expect meaningful discussions on important issues of governance, development, inclusion and justice during election time and in-between. What far-reaching effects that will this episode (Rahul Trail) will have, only time can tell but the era of election speeches looking like a ‘slug fest’, where ‘the murkier, the merrier’, is passé. That is for sure.
What is this case about
On March 6, 2014, during an election speech at village Sonale in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra, Rahul Gandhi had accused “RSS people” of “killing Mahatma Gandhi”. He said, “the RSS people killed Gandhiji and today their people (BJP) talk of him….” Enraged and upset by this deliberate and motivated attempt of defaming a nationalist, disciplined organisation a local RSS worker, who happened to be the Secretary of the Bhiwandi unit at the time, Rajesh Kunte, filed a case against the Congress leader for ‘distorting history’ and ‘defaming’ his organisation under “Other Miscellaneous Application No.353 of 2014”. The Court asked the Police to check the facts in this matter and file a report under Section 202 of criminal procedure code. The Police report confirmed the contents put forward by the complainant (Rajesh Kunte).
After hearing Kunte and pursuing the police report, Magistrate SV Swamy (JFMC) held that a prima facie case against Rahul Gandhi was tenable on July 11, 2014. He ordered summons to be issued against the Congress Vice-President under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (defamation). Rahul Gandhi was then asked to appear before the court on October 7, 2014. But he approached the Mumbai High Court seeking relief from personal appearance. After a brief stay, Mumbai High Court, on March 10 2016, dismissed his plea seeking quashing of defamation complaint against him in Bhiwandi court.
He has now been given time till July 27(Wednesday) to apologise to RSS and take back his words or face trail for defamation.