Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday reiterated before the Supreme Court that he is not guilty of the offence of criminal defamation for his remark 'All thieves have Modi surname' [Rahul Gandhi vs Purnesh Ishwarbhai Modi and anr]..The former Member of Parliament from Wayanad maintained that he will not apologise for his remark and that if he wanted to compound the offence, he could have done it much earlier."The petitioner maintains and has always maintained that he is not guilty of the offence and if he had to apologise and compound the offence, he would have done it much earlier," Gandhi submitted in his rejoinder affidavit.The rejoinder affidavit was filed in response to the counter-affidavit filed by complainant in the case, Purnesh Modi.Purnesh Modi had said in his counter affidavit that Gandhi had shown arrogance rather than being apologetic over his All Thieves have Modi surname remark."Using the criminal process and the consequences under the Representation of Peoples' Act to arm twist the petitioner into apologising for no fault, is gross abuse of the judicial process and ought not to be countenanced," Gandhi submitted in response.Gandhi further said that there is no community or samaj on record going by the name 'Modi' and hence, the offence of defaming Modi community as a whole will not arise.People having the surname Modi may fall into different communities/ castes, he underlined."There is no Modi samaj or community established on record and there are only Modi Vanika Samaj or Modh Ghanchi Samaj existing ... [Complainant] has also admitted that the Modi surname falls under various other castes. There is also the admission that Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Mehul Choksi all do not fall within the same caste," the affidavit said.Gandhi moved the top court after a Magistrate court convicted him and a Sessions Court as well as the Gujarat High Court refused to stay the conviction.This had led to his disqualification from the parliament. Gandhi's plea before the apex court is limited to a prayer for stay on conviction and two-year sentence imposed by the Magistrate court..BackgroundThe now disqualified parliamentarian was convicted by the Magistrate court on March 23 for his remark that he had made at an election rally in Karnataka's Kolar constituency, in 2019.Gandhi had, in his speech linked Prime Minister Narendra Modi with fugitives like Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.He had said,"Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. How come all the thieves have 'Modi' as a common surname?"The proceedings in the instant case arose after Purnesh Modi, a former BJP Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), had taken exception to the the remarks in question, claiming that Gandhi humiliated and defamed persons with the Modi surname.The magistrate court accepted the contention of Modi that by his speech, Gandhi has intentionally insulted the people with a 'Modi' surname.A sessions court in Surat had, on April 20, dismissed Gandhi's plea seeking suspension of his conviction by the Magistrate court.Gandhi had then moved the High Court, which too refused to stay the judgment. leading to the present appeal before the top court.The Supreme Court had last month issued notice on the plea and the sought the response of Modi and the Gujarat government.Modi then filed a counter-affidavit opposing the plea for stay and stating that Gandhi maligned a totally blameless class of persons by his reckless and malicious wordsThe complainant in his response told the top court that Gandhi has on multiple occasions refused to apologise for the remarks in question."The petitioner has defamed all persons bearing the surname Modi, and has also, in particular, the Modi's of the Modh Vanik caste in the State of Gujarat. Both these categories are 'indentifiable collection of persons' within the meaning of Explanation 2 of Section 499 of the IPC," Modi's counter-affidavit said..Gandhi's rejoinderIn response to the affidavit filed by Modi, the Congress leader stated that the complainant himself is not originally from the Modi community, but a Bhutala."Respondent admitted that he belongs to Modh Vamika Samaj which belongs to other communities as well. He has also admitted that the Modi surname falls under various other castes," the rejoinder said..Pertinently, in response to the argument about Gandhi's criminal antecedents, it was contended that none of the criminal cases have resulted in a single conviction yet and almost all such criminal cases have been filed by persons from rival political groups. "It has failed to notice that the petitioner is not a previous convict....Most complaints are at a nascent stage. The pendency of such cases cannot be taken against the petitioner without there being a single line about the nature of offence, territorial jurisdiction or the stage of these cases," the rejoinder stated.The offence in question is not against the society, and the fact that he was a sitting parliamentarian needs to be considered on aspect of the stay."[The complainant] baldly avers that the offence of defamation is any case one of moral turpitude - absurdly triviliasing the very idea of moral turpitude," Gandhi said..The rejoinder was drafted by advocates Prasanna S and Tarannum Cheema, settled by Senior Advocates Prashanto Chandra Sen and Rajinder Cheema, and re-settled by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi.