Rahul expresses regret to Supreme Court on Rafale comment

Rahul also pointed out how Modi and BJP used the top court orders in the Rafale case to claim they got a clean chit

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 23.04.19, 6:56 AM
  • Updated 23.04.19, 6:56 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Rahul Gandhi in Amethi on Monday. (PTI)

Rahul Gandhi on Monday expressed “regret” to the Supreme Court that in the heat of political campaigning he had juxtaposed the Congress slogan “chowkidar chor hai” while citing the court’s recent ruling on the Rafale review petition.

Rahul reaffirmed the allegation that the Rafale deal was a “tainted transaction” that merited a joint parliamentary committee probe. He also furnished copies of media reports to contend that Modi had incorrectly portrayed a previous apex court ruling as a “clean chit” to him on the deal.

BJP parliamentarian Meenakshi Lekhi had moved a contempt plea accusing the Congress president of deliberately misrepresenting the court’s ruling to claim it had held Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “chor” (thief) in the aircraft deal.

The apex court had then sought an “explanation” from Rahul, clarifying it had not expressed any such view as allegedly claimed by him.

“On 10.04.2019… the issues relating to court proceedings unfortunately got juxtaposed and mingled with a political slogan being used extensively by (Rahul and the Congress)…. That slogan is ‘Chowkidar chor hai’,” Rahul’s affidavit said.

“The answering respondent (Rahul) would take this opportunity to reaffirm his stand and belief and that of his party that the Rafale deal is a tainted transaction and a gross and brazen abuse of executive power and a leading example of the corruption of the BJP government led by Prime Minister Modi, which deserves to be investigated thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee and proceeded against thereafter.

“However, it is ex hypothesi (according to the hypothesis proposed) clear and obvious that no court, much less the Apex Court, would adopt, endorse or uphold a political slogan like the above.

“It is unfortunate that this slogan got intermingled with my comments on and references to the Apex Court’s order…. My statement was made in the heat of 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! Nothing could be farther from my mind.

“It is also clear that no court would ever do that and hence the unfortunate references (for which I express regret) to the court order and to the political slogan in juxtaposition in the same breath in the heat of political campaigning ought not to be construed as suggesting that the court had given any finding or conclusion on that issue,” Rahul stated in his affidavit.

The apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, is expected to take up the matter for hearing on Tuesday.

Rahul gave an undertaking that he “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, however, highlighted how Modi had given media interviews portraying as a “clean chit” the apex court’s December 14, 2018, judgment dismissing pleas for a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal.

Rahul cited Modi’s “interview to ABP News channel which was aired on prime time and on social media on 06.04.2019 wherein, in reply to a question about the Rafale deal, the Prime Minister clearly suggested that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had given him a clean chit”.

“Several limbs of the government and of the ruling party have repeatedly stated that the order dated 14.12.2018 of this Hon’ble Court constitutes a clean chit to the government.”

Newspaper reports of Modi’s statements were annexed to the affidavit.

Rahul said he had not the “slightest intention to insinuate anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings” or “lower the majesty of this Hon’ble Court”.

“The said statements were made by the answering respondent (Rahul) in Hindi in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment. It was during a political campaign without a readable copy of the Supreme Court order being available on its website and, therefore, without the answering respondent having seen or read the order and relying upon electronic and social media reportage and the version of workers and activists surrounding the respondent,” he said.

“The fact that the objection to maintainability (of the review petition) was rejected and the fact that this Hon’ble Court felt it fit to consider the review petition on merits gave rise to a bona fide impression in the mind of the answering respondent that the court did find and had found sufficient grounds to re-examine the matter, in view of the fact that the review petition had inter alia raised serious issues about the concealment of information by the government and had noted certain subsequent developments including the confidential documents which had come into the possession of the review petitioner.”

He added: “It is respectfully prayed that the petition may be dismissed with costs.”

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