New Delhi, Oct. 18: The Supreme Court today ruled that a petition a former Samajwadi Party MLA had filed against Rahul Gandhi alleging illegal confinement and rape of a girl was based on “falsehood” and driven by “malice and political vendetta”.
It slammed the petition as an “abuse” of the process of the court and allowed the CBI to continue investigations into the matter to find the reasons for making such a damaging allegation “without substance and even an iota of evidence”.
The court, however, reduced to Rs 5 lakh the fine of Rs 50 lakh that Allahabad High Court had imposed on Kishore Samrite, saying the amount was exorbitant.
The Congress promptly used the ruling to warn activists against levelling “wild” allegations and called a special media conference to describe the trend as “dangerous to democracy”.
“We see this Supreme Court order in a broader perspective as wild charges are being made these days for seeking cheap publicity,” the party’s media head, Janardan Dwivedi, said. “This is dangerous for our democracy.”
He expressed concern at “character assassination” ploys and misuse of the Right to Information Act, asked mainstream parties to ponder over the trend and even cautioned the media against sensationalism.
Without naming India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal and his team, the Congress leader said: “Some new entrants in politics are using unsubstantiated allegations, untruths, lies, innuendoes, conspiracies and criminality to gain popularity. Where will this lead to, what will happen to democracy? Falsehood, character assassination and rumour mongering cannot be legitimate political tools. At least the major political forces should do some introspection.”
Hinting at the BJP, Dwivedi said: “Those parties which used these methods in the past are now facing the music themselves. The Congress never used such methods and hence survived for 127 years. Those who will use lies and rumours to gain popularity will be destroyed, sooner than later. Political battles cannot be won through falsehood.”
He said the RTI Act was being used for personal gain and to settle corporate and political rivalries and to cripple administration.Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Dwivedi reminded the media of what he felt about the misuse of journalistic powers and the media’s responsibility to be on the side of the truth.
The government, which is also worried about “too much negativity in the media”, tried to convince editors of media channels to alter their discourse for the sake of governance and the economy.
The group of ministers (GoM) on media today called editors for an informal interaction to convey the message that “FDI was more important than Kejriwal”.
The GoM argued against trial by the media, sensationalism and the tendency to deliver judgements without proper enquiry.
Issues like allegations against Robert Vadra and Salman Khurshid, excessive coverage to Kejriwal’s unsubstantiated allegations and Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka’s alleged victimisation cropped up at the meeting.
Some editors confronted the ministers, arguing that the media were only doing their job.
The government has often asserted that it was committed to a free media. However, there is no denying that the level of frustration among top functionaries is growing by the day with the public discourse remaining focused on corruption for the past two years and extensive coverage being given to Kejriwal’s tactics.
Even the Prime Minister has warned against “too much negativity” but there are some Congress leaders who prefer to look within instead of shooting the messenger.
Rahul today called on the President, the visit coming two days after Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had met him. Sources described it as a courtesy call.