The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave Congress President Rahul Gandhi time till May 6 to file a fresh affidavit in a contempt of court plea filed against his remarks on the Rafale deal. The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi, saying that Gandhi had attributed his remarks on the deal to the court.
Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, representing Lekhi, told the court that Gandhi has not tendered an unconditional apology for his remarks, Live Law reported. “Gandhi is trying to justify his remarks,” Rohatgi said.
“What is the meaning of writing regret in brackets [in the affidavit]?” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked Gandhi’s lawyer, Abhishek Manu Singhvi. “Where have we said what you attributed to us?”
Singhvi claimed that the petitioner presented the contents of the affidavit in a distorted fashion. “There’s no deficiency in the affidavit, but if there is I should be allowed to rectify,” he added.
“I sincerely apologise for attributing the comments to the Supreme Court,” Singhvi said on Gandhi’s behalf. When the court asked him why the apology had not been mentioned in the affidavit, the lawyer said: “Regret is the same as apology.”
“We never intended to suggest that the SC endorsed, adopted or supported the political slogan ‘Chowkidar chor hai’,” Singhvi said, according to Bar and Bench. The court allowed Gandhi to file a fresh affidavit by May 6, but clarified that this order cannot be understood to be an acceptance of the affidavits already filed.
Earlier this month, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the Centre’s objections to the review petitions seeking an inquiry into the Rafale fighter jet deal. Welcoming the top court’s order, Rahul Gandhi had said, “The entire country is saying that chowkidar has committed theft. It is a day of celebration that the Supreme Court has talked about justice”.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that Congress president had remarked that the “Supreme Court has said chowkidar chor hai” in its verdict.
On April 15, the Supreme Court asked Gandhi to explain his statement attributed to the top court. The Congress chief responded expressing regret for his remarks. On April 23, the court issued a notice to Gandhi, and said the contempt plea will be heard on April 30. On Monday, Gandhi filed a counter-affidavit in court.