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Rahul Gandhi’s response on Rafale: High on political justification, low on regret

New Delhi, April 23, 2019-

Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s affidavit in the Supreme Court about his comment on the Rafale deal appears more like the stand of his party on the deal; and less in expression of apology, with just one mention of regret.

The Congress President attributed ‘chowkidar chor hai’ comment to the apex court in his election campaign rallies.

Gandhi’s affidavit says it was in the heat of political campaigning that he “unfortunately juxtaposed the court order and the deal”. Not convinced with this justification, the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued contempt notice to Gandhi.

Gandhi expresses regret about his statement relating to the court, saying his statement got mingled with his political slogans against the ruling party in the election campaign. But simultaneously, he appears to reinforce what his party believes, that Rafale is tainted.

Explaining his remarks on April 10, 2019, Gandhi said: “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 the respondent (BJP), which is a matter of intense and frenzied public debate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.”

Gandhi said the allegations in the contempt petition — contending that his remark ‘Chowkidar chor Hai’ is attributed to the top court — “were unfounded”. Although, he admits that statements were made 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 the version of workers and activists surrounding him,” said Gandhi.

The Congress chief said there was not the slightest of intention to insinuate anything about the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner; but he did it in the heat of political campaigning. He told the court that he holds it in high esteem and that he did not intend to scandalize it in any manner. But he asserted that trading of charges on the Rafale deal between political parties does not in any way lower the authority of the top court.

Gandhi said his political opponents have misused his statements deliberately and suggested that this court had said ‘Chowkidar chor hai’. His statement does not construe that the court had given any finding or a conclusion on Rafale issue. He referred to the contempt petition as abuse of process of the apex court. But, the Supreme Court seems unconvinced by Gandhi’s explanation.

While hearing the petition, a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had taken strong exception to Gandhi’s comment, saying he had “incorrectly attributed” the remark to the top court. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi, said Gandhi’s affidavit was just lip service and that he has expressed no apology. He said the Congress President had exhibited a reckless attitude in making such statements.

“He (Gandhi) has said that he did not read the (Supreme Court) order and that he said it in a euphoric manner,” Rohatgi said.

“His (Gandhi’s) statement from Amethi to Wayanad is ‘Supreme Court said ‘chowkidar chor hai’ and Narendra Modi is the ‘chowkidar’ (guard). Is this how a leader of national party treats the Supreme Court?” he asked.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Gandhi, requested the court to close the case against the Congress President. He said the contempt plea by Lekhi was an act of political flogging in the middle of the ongoing elections. He said the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan was against the Prime Minister and his party and that Gandhi had been humble and honest to admit his mistake and express regret.

But, the court refused to close the case, and instead issued a contempt notice and listed the hearing on April 30.(Agency)

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