The Supreme Court today (Monday, April 15) issued to notice Congress president Rahul Gandhi asking him to explain by April 22 his remarks attributing the phrase ‘chowkidar chor hai’ to the apex court judgment in the Rafale case.
The court will hear the case on April 23.
The order came on a criminal contempt petition filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi against Mr. Gandhi.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Lekhi, said Gandhi deliberately misinterpreted the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the Rafale case, dismissing certain preliminary objections raised by the government. Gandhi purposefully gave a coloured interpretation to the judgment in order to personally attack Modi.
Rohatgi said the Congress president was widely quoted on national television and in newspapers.
Lekhi, In her plea, said Gandhi had attributed his personal remarks to the top court and tried to create prejudice.
The top court said it will consider the petition filed by Meenakshi Lekhi seeking contempt action against Gandhi for attributing some observations to the apex court which was not in the Rafale judgement.
“We make it clear that views, observations, findings attributed to this court in the alleged speeches, remarks made by Gandhi to media/public have been incorrectly attributed to this court. We also make it clear that this court had no occasion to make such observation in as much as it was deciding legal admissibility of certain documents which were objected by the Attorney General,” said the SC Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
The Bench said, “Having clarified the matter we deem it appropriate to seek explanation of Gandhi.”
In response to the Supreme Court hearing on Rafale last week, Gandhi had on April 10 claimed that the apex court has made it “clear” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “committed a theft”.
He had made the statement while interacting with reporters in Amethi after filing his nomination papers where he is contesting against BJP leader and union minister Smriti Irani.
“I am happy and I have been saying so for months that Hindustan’s PM has given the air force money to (industrialist) Anil Ambani, and the SC has accepted it. The SC is going to investigate it,” Gandhi had said.
“I want to thank the SC. It’s a very happy day. The SC has talked about justice. Justice has prevailed,” he had added.
On April 10, a Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi had declared the court’s unanimous support for freedom of Press in a democracy. The Supreme Court had refused the government’s plea to keep the Rafale jets’ purchase documents a secret and dismissed preliminary objections raised by the government against petitions seeking a review of the December 14, 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court, which upheld the 36 Rafale jets’ deal.
The government had claimed that the reviews were based on secret Rafale documents unauthorisedly removed from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and leaked to the media. Attorney General KK Venugopal, had argued that “stolen” documents came under the protection of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and were not admissible in evidence in a court of law. Claiming privilege, the government had wanted the court to ignore the documents, even if they were found to be germane to the Rafale case, and dismiss the review petitions at a preliminary stage.
The apex court however rubbished the government’s claim of privilege. It said neither OSA nor any other law empowers the government to stop the media from publishing the documents nor the court from examining them. Besides, Chief Justice Gogoi said claiming privilege over the Rafale documents was an “exercise in utter futility”.
Welcoming this move, Gandhi had said, “Bahut khushi ho rahi hai ki jo main mahino se keh raha hun ki Hindustan ke Pradhan Mantri ne Air Force ka paisa chori karke Anil Ambani ji ko diya hai, us baat ko aj SC ne maan liya hai, (I am happy that what I have been saying for months that India’s Prime Minister stole money from the Air Force and gave it to Anil Ambani, Supreme Court has validated that point today).” He also dared the prime minister for an open debate. Soon after, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman accused Gandhi of making comments that verge on contempt of court’s order.
Rahul while speaking to the media in Amethi had said, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that ‘chowkidar’ allowed “theft and that it had accepted that some sort of corruption had taken place in the Rafale deal.”