A court in Mumbai on Thursday granted bail to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi after he pleaded not guilty in a defamation case filed by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist for allegedly linking the organisation to the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017, PTI reported.
The court granted Gandhi bail after former parliamentarian Eknath Gaikwad gave Rs 15,000 surety on his behalf, according to ANI. This came a day after Gandhi resigned as Congress president.
The complainant claimed that within 24 hours of Lankesh’s death, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that “anybody who speaks against the ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed”. The petitioner alleged that Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had also claimed the RSS ideology and workers were responsible for the murder. Yechury was also summoned by the court in February.
Lankesh, a journalist who was known for her strident views against Hindutva politics, was killed at her home in Bengaluru by unidentified gunmen on September 5, 2017. Her murder sparked protests around the country, and was seen by many as another in a spate of attacks that targeted activists and writers critical of Hindutva outfits. In November, a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka Police said Lankesh’s killers were linked to Hindutva organisation Sanatan Sanstha and her murder was part of an “organised crime”.
Rahul Gandhi has also been named in a defamation case filed by another RSS worker for claiming that the Sangh was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. The Congress leader made the statement during a rally in Maharashtra before the 2014 General Elections. At present, the case is going on at the magistrate’s court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra. In 2015, Gandhi turned down the Supreme Court’s offer to express regret in order to get the defamation suit quashed. He stood by his remarks when he appeared before the Bhiwandi court in November 2016 but was granted bail.