The Bombay High Court on Monday extended till July 28 the relief granted to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi from appearance in a local court in a defamation complaint over his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A single-judge bench of Justice P D Naik directed a magistrate’s court in Mumbai to defer the hearing on the defamation plaint beyond July 28.
The complainant, Mahesh Shrishrimal who claims to be a BJP worker, had stated that Rahul Gandhi used a “commander-in-thief" remark against the Prime Minister in 2018 over the Rafale fighter jet deal. The local court had directed the former Congress president to appear before it on November 25 last year pertaining to the defamation complaint. Rahul Gandhi then approached the Bombay HC challenging the summons issued to him. The HC in last November directed the magistrate to defer the hearing on the defamation complaint, which meant the Congress leader would not be required to appear before the magistrate. On Monday, the petition came up for hearing before a single bench of Justice P D Naik.
The HC adjourned the hearing on the plea and directed the magistrate’s court to defer the hearing beyond July 28. The magistrate initiated criminal proceedings against Rahul Gandhi in August 2019. However, the Congress leader in his petition before the HC claimed that he learnt about the same only in July 2021.
The complainant alleged that Rahul Gandhi had made defamatory statements against the PM in a rally in Rajasthan in September 2018. Due to the said defamatory statement, PM Modi was allegedly trolled on social media platforms and various news channels also aired the statement made by Rahul Gandhi, the complaint stated.
As per the complaint, four days after making the statement at the Rajasthan rally, Rahul Gandhi purportedly commented on a video and also posted a message on his personal Twitter account, saying “The sad truth about India’s commander in thief." The complainant had also alleged that Rahul Gandhi was making “defamatory statements against the PM, and by calling him the ‘Commander in Thief’ made a direct allegation of theft against all members of BJP and Indian citizens connected to Modi. In his petition filed through advocate Kushal Mor, Rahul Gandhi stated that the instant complaint was a classic example of frivolous and vexatious litigation motivated by the sole purpose of furthering the complainant’s latent political agenda. It further said that the complainant had no locus to file the complaint since defamation can be initiated only by the person who has been allegedly defamed.
The Congress leader had sought for quashing the order of the Magistrate and a stay on the proceedings pending the hearing of the petition.
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