SC issues contempt notice to Rahul for his 'chowkidar chor hai' jab at Modi after Rafale order


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New Delhi:

The Supreme Court issued a notice to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in connection with the contempt plea filed by BJP lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi on Tuesday. Not satisfied with his reply, the top court said that the contempt plea will be heard along with Rafale review petition on April 30 next week. During the hearing, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in fact asked, “who is chowkidar.” Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi appeared in the court on behalf of petitioner Meenakshi Lekhi. During the proceedings, Rohtagi said that, “Rahul Gandhi has done a lip service in the name of apology.”

"On hearing senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi on behalf of Gandhi in the contempt petition we deem it fit to issue notice to the respondent (Rahul) Gandhi," a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said. "We also direct the registry to list the review petition along with the contempt petition next Tuesday," the bench also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said.

Yesterday, in a reply to the top court, Gandhi had said that he ‘regrets’ the remark and admitted that 'Chowkidar chor hai' after Rafale order was said in 'heat of political campaigning'. He also added that his remark was used and misused by political opponents. During an interaction with media after his roadshow in Amethi, the Congress president had claimed that that the apex court’s order had made it "clear" that the Prime Minister "committed a theft". It triggered accusations from the BJP that this was gross contempt of court.

Yesterday, in a reply to the top court, Gandhi had said that he ‘regrets’ the remark and admitted that 'Chowkidar chor hai' after Rafale order was said in 'heat of political campaigning'. He also added that his remark was used and misused by political opponents. During an interaction with media after his roadshow in Amethi, the Congress president had claimed that that the apex court’s order had made it "clear" that the Prime Minister "committed a theft". It triggered accusations from the BJP that this was gross contempt of court.

"The Congress president probably doesn't read even half a paragraph of the court's order, but here, by saying that the court has said 'chowkidaar chor hai', it is verging on contempt of court," Sitharaman told a press conference.

Gandhi crossed the line of decency in his comments on the court, she said, adding that he is repeatedly misleading people on the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Asked whether the court order is a setback for the government, Sitharaman said, "Not at all."

The Centre has maintained there were no irregularities on pricing and selection of the Anil Ambani owned company as the offset partner of Dassault, the French manufacturer of Rafale, as alleged by the opposition. Anil Ambani has also dismissed Opposition allegations of irregularities. Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited the Bofors scam to blunt the edge of the Congress president’s attack on the Rafale deal.

In massive setback to the Centre, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear petitions for a review of its verdict in the Rafale jet deal on the basis of 'leaked' secret documents by dismissing its preliminary objections. The apex court in its verdict on December 14 rejected demands for a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal and gave a clean chit to the Modi government on procurement of 36 fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, holding there was no irregularity in the decision-making process, pricing or selection of Indian Offset Partner. Dismissing the government's contention that sensitive documents accessed by the media on the Rafale deal can't be evidence by claiming privilege and that the petitions were not maintainable, the court had said it will examine the papers while reviewing on merits the review petitions.

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