‘Defamatory’ remarks against PM Modi: HC extends interim relief for Rahul from court appearance till Sept 26

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday extended till September 26 the interim relief granted to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from appearance before a local court here in a defamation complaint pertaining to his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018.

The complainant, who claims to be a BJP worker, had alleged that Gandhi’s “commander-in-thief” remark in the context of the Rafale fighter jet deal amounted to defamation.

A single bench of Justice S V Kotwal adjourned the hearing till September 26 on the plea filed by Gandhi challenging the summons issued to him by the local court in 2021.

“The interim relief granted earlier will continue till then,” Justice Kotwal said.

Gandhi’s plea was adjourned after the complainant’s lawyer sought time.

Rahul Gandhi was directed by the local court to appear before it in a defamation complaint filed by Mahesh Shrishrimal.

The defamation complaint against the Congress leader had been filed for Gandhi’s “commander-in-thief” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 over the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Rahul Gandhi then approached the high court challenging the summons issued to him. The high court in November 2021 directed the magistrate to defer hearing on the defamation complaint which meant the Congress leader would not be required to appear before the magistrate.

Since then, hearing in Gandhi’s plea was adjourned time-to-time and the interim relief granted to him was also extended.

The magistrate had initiated criminal proceedings against 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 allegations of the complainant were that in September 2018, Gandhi had held a rally in Rajasthan during which he made defamatory statements against Modi.

As per the complaint, Gandhi later posted on his personal twitter account “The sad truth about India’s commander in thief.”

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The complainant alleged that Gandhi was making “defamatory statements against Modi and by calling him ‘Commander in Thief’ made a direct allegation of theft against all members of BJP and Indian citizens connected to Modi”.

Gandhi stated in his petition filed through advocate Kushal Mor that the instant complaint was a classic example of a 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 standi 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 hearing of the petition.

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