The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed all trial court proceedings against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case filed against him in Maharashtra.
The apex court also exempted Rahul Gandhi from appearing before the magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Thane district of Maharashtra tomorrow in connection with the case.
The Congress leader had moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Bombay High Court order dismissing his plea for quashing the defamation case filed against him for allegedly blaming the RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
“There shall be stay of further proceedings in a case pending before the trial court till the next date of hearing,” a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and PC Pant said.
The apex court also issued notices to the Centre and an RSS activist who had filed the complaint seeking their reply within four weeks and posted the matter for hearing on July 8.
Apart from staying the proceedings against the Congress leader, the court said that it would hear at length in future hearings why defamation in India should be decriminalised.
Rahul, in his petition, had challenged sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code.
Interestingly, similar petitions seeking decriminalisation of defamation had been filed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. The Supreme Court has tagged those petitions with that of Rahul.
The bench, however, made it clear that it will not go into the merits of any of the defamation cases filed against these persons and only examine the legality of the penal provisions.
“We are not going to touch upon the merits of these cases. We are not going to address merits in these cases. We are only on the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of IPC,” the bench said.
RSS activist Rajesh Kunte had alleged that the Congress leader had accused the saffron outfit of killing Mahatma Gandhi at a rally in the run-up to last year’s Lok Sabha polls.
According to the RSS activist, the Congress vice president had told an election rally at Sonale on March 6, 2014 that “RSS people killed Gandhiji”.
He had further accused Gandhi of trying to tarnish the reputation of the Sangh through his speech.