Returning from his holiday in Bangkok, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday appeared before a Surat court in a defamation case and pleaded not guilty.
BJP MLA Purnesh Modi had filed a complaint against Gandhi for his remark “why all thieves share the Modi surname” during the Lok Sabha election campaign earlier in 2019. Chief Judicial Magistrate B H Kapadia had in May issued summons to Gandhi after admitting the complaint.
Today, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appeared in the Surat court and said that the defamation case filed against him was by his “political opponents, desperate to silence me”. He also took to his social media handle on Twitter and thanked Congress workers for their “support and solidarity”.
I am in Surat today to appear in a defamation case filed against me by my political opponents, desperate to silence me.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 10, 2019
According to reports, after Gandhi’s plea was recorded, his lawyers moved an application seeking a permanent exemption from personal appearance in the next hearings. After Modi’s lawyers raised objection to the exemption plea, the court said it will decide on the plea on December 10.
However, the court said that he does not have to be present during the next hearing.
In his complaint, Purnesh Modi, the MLA from Surat-West seat, had claimed Gandhi had defamed the entire Modi community by his remark “how come all thieves have Modi as common surname”. He was referring to an election rally where Gandhi asked, “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi…how come they all have Modi as common surname? How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”
Rahul Gandhi had earlier got an exemption from personal hearing as the court had fixed October 10 as the next date of hearing.
Defending Gandhi’s alleged comment, another Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said, “In a democracy, party in power should tolerate criticism of opposition. Rahul ji had said Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi are thieves, and Narendra Modi is a failure. BJP connected his statement to Modi community and insulted them.”
Shri @RahulGandhi arrives at the District & Sessions court in Surat to appear in a defamation case filed by the BJP.
— Congress (@INCIndia) October 10, 2019
The Congress party declared that the case is a “transparent attempt to silence the truth”. “Such transparent attempts to silence the truth will never work, the fight against lies & hatred will always be strengthened by sincerity & love,” the party tweeted.
Rahul Gandhi will appear in another case in Ahmedabad on Friday at 3pm. The case has been filed by a local BJP corporator Brahmbhatt for the Congress leader’s alleged comment against Union home minister and BJP president Amit Shah.