Rahul Gandhi on Thursday appeared before a magistrate’s court in Surat in a criminal defamation suit filed against him for his remarks regarding people with the ‘Modi’ surname.
The Congress leader was called to record his statement for the case today, which was filed by Surat BJP MLA Purnesh Modi.
The origin of the conflict lies in a poll rally held on April 13, 2019, at Kolar in Karnataka, where Gandhi was holding a Lok Sabha campaign. Addressing the people present at the rally, he was reported to have said, “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi… how come they all have Modi as the common surname. How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?”
The MLA from Gujarat who filed the suit took offence at this statement of Gandhi, alleging that this assertion by the latter was defamatory in nature. The case was filed in the same month under IPC sections 499 and 500, which protect individuals from defamation.
On October 10, 2019, the Congress leader had appeared before the Surat court, pleading not guilty against the charges of defamation for his ‘thieves share the Modi surname’ remark. He went on to claim that he did not say anything wrong when he said that all thieves share the Modi surname. His lawyers had also moved an application that sought permanent exemption from personal appearance in succeeding hearings.
He later posted a tweet saying he had to “appear in a defamation case filed against me by my political opponents, desperate to silence me.”
Surat’s Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) A N Dave directed Rahul Gandhi, a week before, to be present in the Surat court on June 24 to record his final statement.
“I didn’t mean to target any community. I just played sarcasm during the elections. I don’t remember much about this,” was Rahul Gandhi’s answer to Purnesh Modi’s accusations of picking on the ‘Modi surname’ community. His response to most of the other questions regarding evidence and witness statements was ‘I don’t know.’
The next hearing for the case is scheduled for July 12.