Rahul Gandhi expresses "regret" over his remarks on Rafale verdict in SC
New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi expressed "regret" in the Supreme Court on Monday over his remarks in connection with the Rafale judgment, which the apex court had said was "incorrectly attributed" to it, saying it was made in the "heat of political campaigning".
The apex court on April 15 had given 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.
The court had directed Gandhi to give his explanation on April 22 on a petition filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi seeking criminal contempt action against him for his remarks. It is scheduled to hear Lekhi's petition on Tuesday.
Gandhi, who filed an affidavit in response to the apex court's order, said his statement was "purely political" and was made to counter the "misinformation campaign" being led by senior BJP functionaries as well as the Government that the December 14 last year judgment gave a "clean chit" to the Modi government on the Rafale deal.
He also referred to a media interview by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he had said that the apex court had given a clean chit to the government in the Rafale deal.
He maintained that there was no "slightest intention" to "insinuate" anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner as he holds the top court in the highest esteem.
Clarifying further, Gandhi said he had made the statement after filing his nomination paper on April 10 without "having seen or read the order" of the apex court passed on that day relating to the admissibility of certain documents related to the Rafale case in the review petition.
However, on the issue of slogan 'Chowkidar chor hai', Gandhi in his affidavit re-affirmed his stand and belief and that of his party that Rafale deal is a "tainted transaction" and a "gross and brazen abuse of executive power and a leading example of the corruption of the BJP Government led by Prime Minister Modi, which deserves to be investigated thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee and proceeded against thereafter".
He maintained that criminal contempt petition filed by Lekhi is seeking to drag the court into a "political controversy for personal gains and political mileage" with ulterior motive to gag him in a political discourse in the ongoing elections.
Gandhi said on April 10, his political statement and issues relating to court proceedings "unfortunately got juxtaposed and mingled with a political slogan being used extensively" by Congress party as well as by him for the last several months, "which is a matter of intense and frenzied public debate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections".
In his 26-page affidavit, he said: "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.
"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 the statement made by him was not even remotely intended to do anything to "lower the majesty of this 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," he said.
"The said statements were made by the answering Respondent in Hindi in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment. It was during a political campaign without a readable copy of the Supreme Court order being available on its website and, therefore, without the answering Respondent having seen or read the order and relying upon electronic and social media reportage and the version of workers and activists surrounding him," he added.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on April 15 had decided to consider the criminal contempt petition filed by Lekhi against Gandhi for attributing to it some observations that were not in the Rafale judgment.
It had observed that politicians should not attribute any findings or views to the court in their speeches.
In the affidavit, Gandhi has said he "undertakes that he will not attribute any views, observations or findings to the court in political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court".
In her plea, Lekhi, the Lok Sabha MP from New Delhi constituency, has alleged that Gandhi has attributed his personal remarks to the top court and tried to create prejudice.
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.