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The Supreme Court today closed the contempt of court proceedings initiated against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in relation to the Rafale case.
Expressing discontent with the conduct of the Congress scion, the Court said that he ought to have been more careful and should have refrained from making political comments and attributing them to the Supreme Court. The Court observed,
“… it is unfortunate that without verification or even perusing as to what is the order passed, the contemnor deemed it appropriate to make statements as if this Court had given an imprimatur to his allegations against the Prime Minister, which was far from the truth. This was not one sentence or a one off observation but a repeated statement in different manners conveying the same. No doubt the contemnor should have been far more careful.
The matter was compounded by filing a 20 page affidavit with a large number of documents annexed rather than simply accepting the mistake and giving an unconditional apology.
Better wisdom dawned on the counsel only during the course of arguments thereafter when a subsequent affidavit dated 8.5.2019 was filed. We do believe that persons holding such important positions in the political spectrum must be more careful. As to what should be his campaign line is for a political person to consider. However, this Court or for that matter no court should be dragged into this political discourse valid or invalid, while attributing aspects to the Court which had never been held by the Court. Certainly Mr. Gandhi needs to be more careful in future.”
The Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph was hearing the contempt plea filed against Gandhi, but closed the proceedings today in light of the affidavit filed by him, in which he had tendered an apology. The order of the Bench reads,
“… in view of the subsequent affidavit, better sense having prevailed, we would not like to continue these proceedings further and, thus, close the contempt proceedings with a word of caution for the contemnor to be more careful in future.”
The order was passed on a contempt case initiated by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi objecting to his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” statement, in reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lekhi had filed the plea objecting to this statement apparently made by Gandhi: “Sarvoch Nyayalay ne kaha hai, Chowkidar chor hai” (The Supreme Court has said that the ‘Chowkidar’ is a thief). The statement was allegedly made in response to the Supreme Court’s judgment concerning the maintainability of the Rafale review case.
On April 15, the Supreme Court had asked Rahul Gandhi to explain his statement, observing that the Bench had no occasion to make such a statement.
In response, Gandhi first filed an affidavit submitting that his brief statement, which was made amidst hectic political campaigning, was not intended to insinuate anything that has not been said by the Court. He submitted that the statement was made in rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment while responding to an unscheduled crowd of journalists.
When the Court issued notice in the matter on April 23, Gandhi stood by his statement in so far as it relates to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, appearing for Gandhi, Senior Advocate AM Singhvi expressed regret for attributing the slogan to Supreme Court.
On April 30, the Court permitted Gandhi to file an additional affidavit in the case on a request made by Singhvi. However, it had been made clear that the order permitting the same could not be understood to be an acceptance or acknowledgement of the affidavits that have been filed already.
Thereafter, Gandhi filed an affidavit tendering his unconditional apology for attributing the ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ remark to the Supreme Court.
[Read the Supreme Court’s order as regards the contempt petition filed against Rahul Gandhi]