Rahul Gandhi needs Rafale contempt plea closed, says BJP seeking political mileage


SC commences hearing on pleas in Rafale case

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the contempt petition filed against him by BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi, insisting that it was the BJP lawmaker who was trying to drag the court into political controversy for personal gains and political mileage.

The Congress president said the court should also make Meenakshi Lekhi pay up for abusing the judicial process by filing the contempt petition against him for his campaign remarks.

Rahul Gandhi had last week filed a similarly-worded affidavit to explain his first reaction to the April 10 court ruling on the use of leaked defense ministry documents for the Rafale review petition. Gandhi had then remarked that the court had said “Chowkidar chor hai “(the watchman is a thief), repeating a slogan that Gandhi and the Congress have used to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gandhi has told the court that his remarks were not meant to obstruct the administration of justice or scandalize the court in any manner. Gandhi also apologized for ascribing comments to the court and said this happened in the “heat of campaigning.”

The fresh affidavit is a response to the top court notice issued after Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi last week pointed that the judges had “not issued notice” to his client but only sought an explanation. At this, CJI Gogoi had issued a notice to “cure that defect right away”.

The court will take up Rahul Gandhi’s affidavit in response to the contempt notice tomorrow. Rahul Gandhi does not need to be present in court when the three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna hear the case. The judges had exempted Rahul Gandhi from personal appearance.

In his earlier explanation, Rahul Gandhi had, however, underlined that if he had misinterpreted the court’s order on the review petition, so have many ministers of the government who passed off the order in the original case, given on December 14, 2018, as a “clean chit” to the deal.

That ruling had turned down a court-monitored probe of the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal. “This court must not allow this political flogging to go on,” Singhvi had said, recalling that at the last hearing, the court had only sought Rahul Gandhi’s explanation, and not issued a formal notice.

The court had tagged the contempt petition along with the main review petition and decided to hear the case on Tuesday. The center, however, wants the hearing on the main review petition to be deferred on the ground that it needs more time to file its affidavit.

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