The Supreme Court on Friday reserved its verdict in the contempt petition filed by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for remarking that the Supreme Court had found "chowkidar chor hain" in its April 10 verdict in Rafale preliminary objections.
The court also reserved the verdict in the petition seeking review of the December 14 judgment which had declined to order probe into the alleged corruption in the deal to procure 36 Rafale aircraft from French company Dassault aviation.
Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for Lekhi said Gandhi led public astray by saying the Supreme Court said "Chowkidar chor hai". Hence, the court should pass an order asking Gandhi to apologise.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, senior Congress leader and lawyer for Gandhi, said the Congress president had expressed his regret even before the court had issued notice. When the court did not accept that regret is equivalent to apology, he filed an affidavit expressing apology. He added that the case deserves to be closed.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved the verdict on the criminal contempt plea filed against Gandhi by Lekhi.
Rohatgi also argued that the court should ask Gandhi to make an apology to the public for his remarks. Gandhi had on May 8 tendered unconditional apology in the apex court for wrongfully attributing to it his "chowkidar chor hai" remark in the Rafale verdict and said that he holds the top court in the "highest esteem and respect" and any attributions to it were "entirely unintentional, non-wilful and inadvertent".
The three-page affidavit was filed by the Congress president after he had drawn flak from the apex court on April 30 over his earlier affidavit in which he had not directly admitted his mistake for incorrectly attributing the allegedly contemptuous remark to the top court. Lekhi has filed the contempt plea against Gandhi for the "chowkidar chor hai" remarks against Modi, which the top court had said were incorrectly attributed to it.
Gandhi had made the remarks on April 10, the day the apex court had dismissed the Centre's preliminary objections over admissibility of certain documents for supporting the review petitions against the December 14 last year verdict in the Rafale case. The apex court on April 15 had given a categorical clarification that in its Rafale verdict there was no occasion for it to make a mention of the contemptuous observation that "chowkidar Narendra Modi chor hain" as has been attributed to it by Gandhi
Gandhi, in his explanation filed in the court earlier, had said that his statement was made in the "heat of political campaigning" and there was not the "slightest intention to insinuate" anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner. He had said that his April 10 statement was made in purely political context to counter the "misinformation campaign" being led by senior BJP functionaries as well as the government that the apex court verdict of December 14 last year was a "clean chit" to the Centre regarding all the aspects of the Rafale deal.
(With PTI inputs)