Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday appeared before a magisterial court in Surat in connection with a defamation case filed against him by a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, reported NDTV. The Congress MP denied making any defamatory comments about the “Modi surname”.
BJP legislator Purnesh Modi had filed the case against Gandhi for a jibe he had made about people with the surname “Modi” during the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign.
In an election speech on April 13, 2019, Gandhi had claimed that everyone with the surname Modi were corrupt, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi and Punjab National Bank scam-accused Nirav Modi as examples.
Surat Chief Judicial Magistrate AN Dave had directed Gandhi to record his statement in the lawsuit. Dave will now hear the case again on July 12.
“I didn’t mean to target any community,” he said, according to the Free Press Journal. “I just played sarcasm during the elections. I don’t remember much about this.”
Gandhi said that he had indeed mentioned the “Modi” surname, but was specifically referring to the prime minister. He added that he had no intention to defame any particular community or anyone else.
“Rahul Gandhi recorded his final statement with the court today,” said Gandhi’s advocate Kirit Panwala, according to The Times of India. “He said his mentioning of the Modi surname was just to show the misdeeds of PM Narendra Modi and not to defame anyone else or a particular community.”
In October 2019, Gandhi had pleaded “not guilty” in this case. The Congress has called it a “false defamation case”.
On July 6, 2019, a court in Patna had granted Gandhi bail for the same remark in a separate case filed by former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi.