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2014 RSS defamation case: Rahul Gandhi moves HC against lower court allowing fresh documents | Mumbai News


Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has approached the Bombay High Court against an order of the Bhiwandi magistrate court that allowed a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary to “belatedly” produce certain documents in a criminal defamation complaint.

Gandhi claimed that the issue had been covered by the September 2021, order of another bench of the High Court when Justice Revati Mohite-Dere dismissed the plea by RSS functionary Rajesh Kunte seeking that the transcript of Rahul Gandhi’s 2014 speech in which he allegedly blamed the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, be admitted as evidence in a defamation case against him.

If the accused is compelled to deny or admit a document, it would be “contrary to constitutional mandate”, Justice Mohite-Dere had observed.

In his recent plea filed through advocate Kushal Mor, Gandhi claimed that despite the said order, the magistrate court had allowed Kunte to show the same documents during the proceedings. He argued that Kunte obtaining a certified copy of Gandhi’s plea of 2014 seeking quashing of criminal proceedings would not mean that he could compel Gandhi to admit or deny the annexures to the said petition.

A single-judge bench of Justice Sarang V Kotwal on Monday said that if the earlier bench had already decided the issue, it would be appropriate to let the same judge hear Kunte’s plea and order to place the same before Justice Mohite-Dere.

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Addressing an election rally on March 6, 2014, in Thane district, then Congress vice-president had alleged that the RSS was behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Kunte alleged that Gandhi tarnished Sangh’s reputation.
Kunte claimed that by attaching a copy of his speech in his 2014 plea against the criminal proceedings, Gandhi had “unambiguously owned up to the speech”.

In March 2015, the Bombay HC dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking to quash the case, prompting him to approach the Supreme Court with a special leave petition to challenge the HC order. He later withdrew the plea in SC, expressed his willingness to face trial and said he would not apologise.

A Bhiwandi court in June 2018 framed charges against Rahul Gandhi, while he pleaded not guilty and the case was set for trial.

The magistrate, however, rejected Kunte’s plea seeking to substantiate the transcript of the speech “as evidence”, prompting him to move the HC. In September, 2019, the HC rejected Kunte’s plea when Justice Dere noted that the transcript cannot be said to be a “public document”.

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The bench, while upholding the magistrate’s order, observed that an accused has the right to “remain silent” under Article 20 (3) of the Constitution and the same is “sacrosanct” in a criminal trial.

On June 3, the magistrate took on record certain additional documents from Kunte, which Gandhi opposed.

Gandhi, in his plea in HC also added that the concerned documents were not part of the complaint and were now being produced after a lapse of over nine years. Pending hearing of the plea, Gandhi sought stay on proceedings in the case.

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