The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, asking him to respond why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for attributing remarks to the top court in the Rafale case.
The notice was issued after Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi urged the judges to close the contempt case against him and argued that the court had “not issued notice” to his client but only sought an explanation. On Monday, Gandhi apologised for ascribing comments to the court and said this happened in the “heat of campaigning.”
After the court ruled on April 10 that the Rafale review petition could use leaked defence ministry documents that the government had urged it to not consider, Gandhi remarked that the court had said “Chowkidar chor hai “(the watchman is a thief). Gandhi and the Congress have used the slogan to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, in the run-up to the 2014 election, described himself as a chowkidar who would not allow any wrongdoing under his watch.
Generally in a contempt case, when the alleged contemnor is asked to respond to the allegations, he/she is required to be present in the court when the case is heard, but in this case, a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, justice Deepak Gupta and justice Sanjiv Khanna dispensed with the need for the personal appearance of Gandhi.
The court, in its order, said “personal presence of the alleged contemnor is dispensed with, for the present.” The court has also tagged the matter along with the main review petition and the contempt petition will now be heard on April 30.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology, calling Gandhi a “liar of the first order” in public opinion.
“This was an attempt by Rahul Gandhi to manufacture a lie and create a controversy in the Rafale deal… He should apologise to the people of this country,” said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.
In his affidavit filed on Monday, Gandhi said his remarks were not meant to obstruct administration of justice or scandalise the court in any manner.