A court in Mumbai summoned Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in connection with a defamation complaint filed against him for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “commander-in-thief”, PTI reported on Friday. Gandhi had made the comments last year in a tweet while criticising him for the Rafale jet deal.

Girgaum’s metropolitan magistrate issued the summons on August 28, asking the Congress MP to appear before it on October 3. The defamation complaint was filed by Maharashtra’s Bharatiya Janata Party executive member Mahesh Shrishrimal against Gandhi.

“Rahul, by calling the Prime Minister commander-in-thief during a rally last year, had defamed Modi as well as BJP workers.” The Indian Express quoted Shrishrimal as saying.

Gandhi had focused his campaign for this year’s Lok Sabha elections around the “Chowkidaar chor hai [the watchman is a thief]” slogan, accusing Modi of cancelling the previous United Progressive Alliance-led government’s Rafale defence deal and signing off on a more expensive contract.

The 36-jet Rafale jet deal between India and France has been repeatedly criticised by the Opposition. Gandhi had accused Modi of treason and alleged that he had acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the deal. Ambani had won an offset contract from Dasault Aviation, the manufacturer, for the deal, despite no previous experience in making aircraft. However, the government has denied any favouritism in the deal.

On December 14, the Supreme Court had dismissed a batch of public interest litigations, including a petition submitted by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the deal. The court had said there was “no occasion to doubt the Centre’s decision-making process in the deal”.

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