Supreme Court lays down limits, asks Rahul Gandhi to explain Rafale remark

The Congress chief has to send his explanation by April 22

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 16.04.19, 5:43 AM
  • Updated 16.04.19, 5:43 AM
  • 2 mins read
BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi outside Supreme Court after a hearing on the contempt against Congress President Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi, Monday, April 15, 2019. (PTI)

The Supreme Court on Monday sought Rahul Gandhi’s “explanation” about the allegation that he had deliberately misrepresented the court’s recent ruling on the Rafale review petition to claim it had held Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “chor” (thief) in the aircraft deal.

The apex court clarified that such a remark can only be “incorrectly attributed” to it as it had not made any observation or expressed any view or finding as allegedly claimed by the Congress president.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna banned anyone from attributing any unrecorded “views, observations or findings” to the court.

Rahul has to send his explanation by April 22, a day before the next hearing.

BJP parliamentarian Meenakshi Lekhi, represented by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, had moved a petition accusing the Congress president of contempt of court.

She had contended that the court had drawn no inference of guilt against the Prime Minister and yet Rahul had publicly mouthed the slogan “chowkidar chor hai (the watchman is a thief)” in connection with the April 10 ruling.

The court agreed that it had merely dealt with the “legal question of (the) admissibility of certain documents”.

“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 court said.

“Having clarified the matter, we deem it proper to ask the respondent for his explanation which will be laid before us on or before 22.04.2019. The petitioner will be at liberty to file additional affidavit. We further observe that 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.”

On April 10, the court had held that the government enjoyed no immunity relating to certain documents produced by petitioners Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan.

The petitioners had claimed that the Prime Minister’s Office had conducted parallel negotiations in the Rafale deal despite opposition from the defence ministry.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi stressed before reporters that the court order was “a notice and not a judgment”.

“We will give a strong, effective explanation as the BJP is wrongly interpreting Rahul’s remark. Nobody can suggest that the Supreme Court will use the political slogan, ‘chowkidar chor hai’, of a political party,” he said.

The Congress believes the legal battle will allow it to keep the slogan in the public focus. It plans to tell the apex court that the BJP is trying to drag the judiciary into its political battles.

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