The Supreme Court on Thursday closed Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi’s criminal contempt petition against former Congress President Rahul Gandhi for attributing the “chowkidar chor hai” slogan to the court, reported Bar and Bench. However, the bench issued a word of caution to the Congress leader that he should be more careful in future.

The bench said Gandhi should not have made political comments without reading the full order given by the court in December 2018, when it had rejected the need of an inquiry into the Rafale jet deal. The slogan was used by the Congress and other Opposition parties in the run-up to the General Elections to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi about alleged corruption in connection with the deal. The prime minister had styled himself as India’s chowkidar, or watchman, who would protect the country from corruption.

Lekhi on Thursday said that affidavits filed by Gandhi was the Congress’s attempt to “obfuscate the truth”. The BJP leader said that her party’s stand on the Rafale jet deal was vindicated by the judgement, which also cautioned public figures like Gandhi.

“Imagine a person who wants to be a prime minister does not know that the public institutions should be respected,” Lekhi said. “Public institutions and constitutional bodies need to be respected. The apology that came in three installments reminds me that when I was young we watched a hilarious show, “Bakra Kisto Mein” [Goat in installments], and now it is apology by Gandhi which is in ‘kisto’ [installments],” Lekhi said.

The former Congress president had issued an unconditional apology to the court on May 8 for the remark, saying it was made in a purely political context to counter the “misinformation campaign” about the court’s December 2018 judgement. The ruling party had claimed that the court had given it a clean chit, he added. Gandhi expressed regret that the political slogan got “juxtaposed and intermingled” and the “attributions were entirely unintentional, non-willful and inadvertent”. He urged the court to end the contempt case against him.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who represented Meenakshi Lekhi, urged the court to reject Gandhi’s apology, and called for action against him as per the law.

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