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Supreme Court issues contempt notice to Rahul Gandhi for attributing 'chowkidar chor hai' remark to its order

File photo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Photograph:( ANI )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 23, 2019, 12.50 PM (IST) Written By: Jessica Taneja

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a contempt notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his remarks on the court's verdict in Rafale case. Gandhi had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a thief attributing his remark to the court's judgement.

In a criminal contempt case, when the court issues a notice, the person to whom the notice is served must appear in person unless exempted by the court itself. So far, the Supreme Court hasn't exempted Rahul Gandhi, so he will have to appear in person.

The Congress president 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.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi had moved court against Rahul Gandhi's remark. "The words used and attributed by him to Supreme Court in the Rafale case has been made to appear something else. He is replacing his personal statement as Supreme Court's order and trying to create prejudice," Lekhi said in her petition.

The court asked the Congress president to explain his remark and in his reply yesterday, Gandhi said he "regrets" the remarks. In his affidavit, the Congress president said the remark that the Supreme Court has agreed that PM Modi indulged in corruption in Rafale deal was "incorrectly attributed" to the court. Gandhi further said in the affidavit that he had made the statements in the heat of political campaigning which have been misused by his opponents.

"Rahul says he made wrong statements, he did not read the order. It was not clear to him and he holds SC in highest esteem. There is no apology from him in the affidavit. It only mentions the word regret," senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Lekhi, told the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

Rahul Gandhi's response is mere lip service, Rohatgi added.

Countering the argument, Gandhi's lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "For the last 18 months it (chowkidaar chor hai) is a political slogan and he (Rahul Gandhi) stands by it. If you want a political flog, then be it. There are 12 statements from the ruling party saying they got a clean chit from Supreme Court; even I can file contempt against such remarks."

He urged the top court to dismiss the plea, but CJI Gogoi issued contempt notice to Gandhi and posted the matter for further hearing on April 30.