The Constitutional Bench headed by outgoing Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday pronounced its verdict on the criminal contempt plea filed against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi for wrongly attributing to the apex court his "chowkidar chor hai" remark in Rafale case against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Going by the conventions, the outgoing CJI saved up some key verdicts days before his tenure ends on November 17.
The court said the remarks made by Gandhi were far from true and he should have refrained from those and could have been careful. “It is unfortunate that without any verification certain remarks were made by the contemnor (Rahul Gandhi) against the prime minister,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said.
The bench referred to the affidavit filed by him tendering unconditional apology and said, “Gandhi enjoys an important position in political spectrum and no court should be dragged to political discourse, whether valid or invalid”.
“Mr. Gandhi needs to be more careful in future,” the bench added. The bench noted that subsequently the contemnor has filed an affidavit that contempt proceedings should not be taken forward. “in view of the affidavit filed by Gandhi, we close contempt proceedings initiated against him,” the bench said.
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. A Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph had on May 10 reserved the judgement.
Gandhi, who was then the President of the Congress Party, had told the bench that he has already tendered unconditional apology for wrongly attributing the remarks relating to the Prime Minister to the apex court.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Gandhi, had told the bench, that the Congress leader expressed regret over the wrongful attribution to the apex court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Lekhi, had submitted that the apology tendered by Gandhi should be rejected and action must be taken against him as per the law.
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 then 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 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.