The Bombay High Court on Monday extended till January 25, 2023 the relief granted to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from appearance before a local court in a defamation complaint pertaining to his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A single bench of Justice Amit Borkar adjourned hearing till January 20, 2023 on the plea filed by Gandhi challenging the summons issued to him by the local court. "The interim relief granted earlier shall continue till January 25, 2023," Justice Borkar said.
Gandhi's advocate Sudeep Pasbola told the court this is a case where a person is claiming to be defamed by alleged comments made on the prime minister. Justice Borkar said the court would hear the matter on January 20.
The local court had directed Gandhi to appear before it in a defamation complaint filed by one Mahesh Shrishrimal, claiming to be a BJP party worker. The complaint had been filed for Gandhi's "commander-in-thief" remark against Prime Minister Modi in 2018 over the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Gandhi later approached the high court challenging the summons issued to him. The HC in November 2021 directed the magistrate to defer hearing on the defamation complaint which meant the Congress leader would not be required to appear before the magistrate.
The magistrate had initiated criminal proceedings against Gandhi in August 2019. However, the Congress leader in his petition before the HC claimed he learnt about the same only in July 2021. The complainant's allegation was that in September 2018, Gandhi conducted a rally in Rajasthan where he made defamatory statements against Modi.
Due to the said defamatory statement, Modi was allegedly trolled on media by various news channels and social media platforms. As per the complaint, four days later, Gandhi purportedly commented on a video and posted on his personal Twitter account "The sad truth about India's commander in thief."
The complainant alleged Gandhi was making "defamatory statements against Modi and by calling him 'Commander in Thief' made a direct allegation of theft against all members of the BJP and Indian citizens connected to Modi".
Gandhi stated in his petition, filed through advocate Kushal Mor, that the instant complaint was a classic example of a frivolous and vexatious litigation motivated by the sole purpose of furthering the complainant's latent political agenda.
He also said the complainant had no locus to file the complaint since defamation can be initiated only by the person who has been allegedly defamed. The Congress leader had sought for quashing the magistrate's order and a stay on the proceedings pending hearing of the petition.
(With PTI inputs)