Mumbai: Congress president Rahul Gandhi pleaded "not guilty" in a defamation case filed against him by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker in a Bhiwandi court on Tuesday. The Bhiwandi magistrate framed charges under section 499 (defamation) and section 500 (punishment) of the IPC against him. Mr Gandhi stood in the witness box while magistrate A.I. Shaikh read out the charges and the complaint and asked him if pleaded guilty or not. The court then accepted Mr Gandhi's application to run a summons trial in the case. The next hearing will be on August 10. A person found guilty of defamation under section 500, faces simple imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years, or a fine, or both..
During a rally in Bhiwandi in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Mr Gandhi had allegedly said,"The RSS people killed Gandhiji and today their people (BJP) talk of him… They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji." He was then sued for his comments and in 2016, he was granted bail by the Bhiwandi court.
On May 2 this year, Mr Gandhi's lawyer Narayan Iyer had moved an application asking for a summons trial and not a summary trial. In a summons trial, the court will need to go through all the evidence, books and historical references pertaining to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. At that time, the complainant Rajesh Kunte did not object to the application. However, on Tuesday, Kunte moved another application in which he wanted the acceptance of a transcript of Mr Gandhi's alleged speech. But Mr Gandhi's lawyer refused to accept the transcript.
The complainant's lawyer Nandu Phadke informed the court that after filing a complaint in Bhiwandi court, Mr Gandhi had moved the Bombay high court to quash the FIR.
At that time, his petition copy contained his alleged speech transcript. Therefore, Mr Phadke requested the court that Mr Gandhi should accept the said transcript as evidence.
Mr Iyer told Deccan Chronicle that Kunte's lawyer wanted that they should accept all the documents of the high court petition. "So we said to the court that we are ready to accept petition copy and affidavit of Rahul Gandhi, but we will not accept other documents as evidence."