Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been permanently exempted from appearing before a court in Maharashtra’s Thane district in connection with a defamation case brought on by a member of the Rashtriya Sawyamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Gandhi’s plea was submitted through his lawyer, Narayan Iyer, and Bhiwandi First Class Judicial Magistrate C Wadikar noted that the Congress leader merits a lifetime exemption. Rajesh Kunte, a local RSS worker, filed a defamation suit, and the magistrate set June 3 as the day for recording evidence.
The Bhiwandi magistrate’s court received a private complaint from Kunte in 2014, after he watched Gandhi’s speech in which he reportedly blamed the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
Kunte stated that this statement damaged the RSS’s reputation. In June 2018, Gandhi appeared in court and submitted a not-guilty plea.
“Accused Rahul Rajiv Gandhi is hereby exempted from appearance in the court till the further order passed by the court subject to following conditions,” reads the order.
“Accused to undertake that his duly designated advocate punctually and regularly appears before court on each and every scheduled date and conduct the trial in absence of accused,” says one of the conditions. “Accused to remain present in court as and when directed,” reads another.
Rahul Gandhi, who was recently disqualified as MP after his conviction by a Surat court in a defamation case, had requested last year to be exempted from appearing in court in Bhiwandi on the grounds that he was a Delhi resident, a member of the Lok Sabha, which required to frequently travel to his constituency (Wayanad), and attend party works.
Gandhi had asked to be permitted to have a lawyer defend him in the hearing whenever it was necessary. Kunte recently argued that since Gandhi is no longer a parliamentarian, he should not be given an exemption in the matter.
Gandhi was found guilty of a criminal defamation case in 2019 for saying “Why all thieves have Modi surname,” and the Surat court sentenced him to two years in jail on March 23.
In order to provide him time to file an appeal with a higher court, the court also granted him bail and deferred his sentence for 30 days. The next day, he was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha.
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