Surat: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer told a court here in Gujarat on Tuesday the criminal defamation complaint on his alleged “Modi surname” remark should have been filed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an aggrieved person as most of the allegations made in the Opposition leader’s 2019 election speech that is at the centre of the case were directed at the latter.
Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi after over his alleged comment — “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”– made at a rally at Kolar in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Gandhi’s lawyer Kirit Panwala told the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate H H Varma in Surat that the ruling party legislator is not an aggrieved party in the case and the surname remark does not defame a social group as there is no such thing as a “Modi” community.
The court is hearing final arguments in the criminal defamation case filed against the Congress Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala.
“Since 90 percent of allegations in the said election speech of Rahul Gandhi were directed against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was he who should have filed a complaint regarding defamation as an aggrieved person and not Purnesh Modi as is the case here,” Panwala argued before the court.
“The line used by Gandhi, as to ‘why all the thieves have Modi as the common surname,’ does not defame a community as there is no such community,” he further submitted.
Panwala told the court the ongoing proceedings in the case were “flawed’ as procedure laid down in such matters under section 202 (postponement of issue of process) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was not followed.
“Rahul Gandhi resides in Delhi, which is outside the jurisdiction of the (Surat) court. For such an accused, the law requires the witnesses to be examined, and the matter enquired. Court is then required to give the reason on whether to issue the summons or not. No such thing was followed,” he said.
The matter will come up for hearing next on March 13.
Trial in the four-year-old case resumed after the Gujarat High Court recently vacated its interim stay on proceedings imposed in March last year.
As per the complainant, Gandhi, with his “common surname” remark at the election rally, had defamed the entire Modi community.
The former Congress president had in October 2019 pleaded not guilty during his appearance before the Surat court when it had recorded his statement in the case filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (dealing with defamation).