The apex court on April 15 gave a categorical clarification that in its Rafale verdict there was no occasion for it to make a mention of the contemptuous observation that ‘chowkidar Narendra Modi chor hain’ as has been attributed to it by Rahul Gandhi
CONGRESS President Rahul Gandhi on Monday expressed regret again for “incorrectly” attributing his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ remark to the Supreme Court and accused BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi of trying to drag the court into a political controversy for “personal gains and political mileage” by moving the contempt petition against him. Seeking dismissal of the contempt petition over his remark against the Prime Minister in his response to the Rafale verdict, Gandhi filed a fresh affidavit reiterating that his statement was made in the “heat of political campaigning” and there was not the “slightest intention to insinuate” anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner. The statement was made in Hindi in a “rhetorical flourish” in the heat of the moment, he said. Gandhi, who said he is a responsible political and public figure heading a 130-year-old political party, sought dismissal of Lekhi’s plea, asserting it was an “abuse of process” of the court.
The apex court on April 15 gave a categorical clarification that in its Rafale verdict there was no occasion for it to make a mention of the contemptuous observation that ‘chowkidar Narendra Modi chor hain’ as has been attributed to it by Gandhi. Gandhi, who filed the fresh affidavit following the formal notice issued to him by the apex court on a criminal contempt petition filed against him by Lekhi, has written the word “regret” in bracket. On April 22, Gandhi filed an affidavit in response to the apex court’s order asking him to give an explanation over his remarks and said he was expressing “regret” over it. However, during the hearing in the matter on April 23, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Lekhi, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the word ‘regret’ was in a bracket and actually it was a “lip service of apology”.
Gandhi said his April 10 statement was made in purely political context to counter the “misinformation campaign” being led by senior BJP functionaries as well as the Government that the apex court verdict on December 14 last year was a “clean chit” to the Centre regarding all the aspects of the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal. “My statement was made in the heat of political campaigning. It has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this Court had said ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’! Nothing could be farther from my mind,” he said in his 28-page affidavit. “It is also clear that no court would ever do that and hence the unfortunate references (for which I express regret) to the court order and to the political slogan in juxtaposition the same breath in the heat of political campaigning ought not to be construed as suggesting that the court had given any finding or conclusion on that issue,” Gandhi said in his affidavit filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes. Gandhi clarified he did not have the “slightest or remotest intention, desire or even thought process, to bring the court into the political arena or bring it into disrepute or attribute to it deliberately or wilfully that which the court had not said or meant”.
Gandhi also said he had not done nor remotely intended to do anything to lower the majesty of the Supreme Court in any manner whatsoever. “There is no intention, direct, indirect, remote, implied or an attempt in any other manner to violate any court order, obstruct the administration of justice, or prejudice or interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings, or scandalize the court in any manner. The said statements were made by the answering respondent (Gandhi) in Hindi in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment,” he said. Gandhi said his statement was made during a “political campaign without a readable copy of the Supreme Court order” being available on its website and he had neither seen nor read the order.
“On April 10, at the time of and in my statement, the issues relating to court proceedings unfortunately got juxtaposed and mingled with a political slogan being used extensively by answering respondent’s party (Congress) as well as answering respondent (Gandhi) for the last several months, which is a matter of intense and frenzied public debate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections,” he said. “In view of the above, it is submitted that the present petition be dismissed in limine at the very threshold with costs. It is further submitted that by this petition, it is the applicant-petitioner (Lekhi) who is seeking to drag the court into a political controversy for personal gains and political mileage.” The apex court earlier said it will hear Lekhi’s contempt petition on April 30. In her plea, Lekhi, the Lok Sabha MP from New Delhi constituency, alleged that Gandhi has attributed his personal remarks to the top court and tried to create prejudice.
SC allows Centre to circulate letter in Rafale case
THE Centre on Monday sought deferment of Tuesday’s hearing on the pleas seeking review of the Rafale deal verdict of December 14 last year saying it needs time to file a detailed reply on these petitions.1 The Centre’s prayer was made before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi which did not say anything on the issue of adjournment of the scheduled hearing on Tuesday. The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, allowed senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for the Centre, to circulate a letter of adjournment among the parties which include petitioners who have filed the review pleas. The Centre’s letter said it needs time to file reply on merits on the review petitions. The review petitions filed by former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan is listed for hearing before a bench headed by the Chief Justice on Tuesday in the post lunch session. Two other review petitions -- filed by Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh and advocate Vineet Dhanda -- are also listed for hearing on Tuesday. The Centre has said in the letter that it has raised certain preliminary objections on maintainability of certain documents relied upon in the review petitions and the court had decided the issue on April 10. It said that since the Government has not filed any reply on merit of the review pleas, it would need some time to file a detailed reply to the petitions seeking review of December 14, 2018 verdict in Rafale fighter jet deal case. In a setback to the Centre, the apex court on April 10 allowed the pleas which relied on leaked documents for seeking review of its Rafale judgement and dismissed the government’s preliminary objections claiming “privilege” over them. The Centre had submitted that three privileged documents were unauthorisedly removed from the Defence Ministry and used by the petitioners to support their review petitions against the December 14, 2018 judgement of the apex court which had dismissed all pleas challenging the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The top court had rejected the objections raised by the Centre that those documents were not admissible as evidence under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, and no one can produce them in court without the permission of the department concerned as they are also protected under the Official Secrets Act. It had noted that all the three documents were in “public domain” and published by prominent daily The Hindu were “in consonance with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech”. It had said the documents used in the pleas were published in ‘The Hindu’ in February and one of the papers was also published by ‘The Wire’. The apex court had also noted that no law enacted by Parliament specifically barring or prohibiting the publication of such documents on any of the grounds mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Constitution has been brought to its notice. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. A deal to procure the jets was signed between India and France in 2015. The delivery is expected to begin in September this year. In the December 14 verdict, the apex court said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale jets from France and dismissed all the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal. The top court had said there was no substantial evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity.