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Supreme Court contempt notice issued to Rahul Gandhi

Rahul had already expressed regret for juxtaposing, in the heat of the poll campaign

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi

  • Published 24.04.19, 7:40 AM
  • Updated 24.04.19, 7:40 AM
Congress President Rahul Gandhi waves at party supporters during a public meeting at Beneshwar Dham, in Dungarpur district on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi waves at party supporters during a public meeting at Beneshwar Dham, in Dungarpur district on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a formal contempt notice against Rahul Gandhi for allegedly attributing his “chowkidar chor hai” slogan to the court, but exempted him from personal appearance when it hears the matter on April 30.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna issued the notice after a brief hearing on the petition filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi.

Rahul had already expressed regret for juxtaposing, in the heat of the poll campaign, the “chowkidar chor hai” slogan while citing the court’s ruling on the Rafale review petitions.

But senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Lekhi, complained on Tuesday that Rahul’s affidavit did not reflect any “apology or contrition” and he had merely said “I regret”, within brackets.

The Chief Justice joked: “Were we supposed to use the word chowkidar? Who is the chowkidar?”

Rohatgi responded: “Ask him (Rahul).”

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul, said the court had not issued any notice and had only sought an explanation. Since Rahul had expressed regret, the matter should be closed, and there was no scope for a rejoinder to the affidavit.

Justice Gogoi responded saying it was a technical mistake not to issue a formal notice to Rahul at the earlier hearing. “We will cure the defect,” he added.

The bench issued a notice to Rahul for his response and said the matter would be tagged with the review petitions.

Separately and outside the court, the Congress announced that the “chowkidar chor hai” slogan would continue as the facts of the Rafale deal had nothing to do with the ongoing contempt case.

Contesting the perception that Rahul had expressed regret for using the slogan, Singhvi, also a Congress spokesperson, said: “Neither Rahul nor the Congress regrets the slogan and the political campaign going on for the past 18 months to bring out the complicity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in the Rafale deal. The regret was expressed by Rahul only in the specific context of the claim that the Supreme Court too had endorsed the slogan.”

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