Defamation case: HC dismisses RSS functionary’s plea seeking Rahul Gandhi’s 2014 speech transcript to be admitted as evidence

The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed a plea filed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary Rajesh Kunte, seeking that the transcript of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi‘s speech made in 2014, in which he allegedly blamed the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, be admitted as evidence in a criminal defamation case against him. Kunte had approached the HC in 2019, challenging an order of the Bhiwandi magistrate’s court passed in September 2018 which dismissed his request to admit such charge sheet as evidence.

On Monday, a single bench of Bombay HC presided over by Justice Revati Mohite Dere “dismissed” Kunte’s plea.

Gandhi is facing trial in a criminal defamation case following an FIR filed against him by Kunte in 2014 after the said speech.

As per Kunte’s plea, on March 6, 2014, Gandhi made a speech in Bhiwandi during an election rally where he allegedly said that “RSS people” had killed Mahatma Gandhi.

Soon after, Kunte, who is the secretary of Bhiwandi unit of the RSS, lodged an FIR against Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress leader subsequently said he had been quoted out of context.

In December 2014, Rahul Gandhi moved the Bombay High Court, challenging the defamation proceedings initiated against him. He had at that time submitted a transcript of the said speech in the HC.

In his plea in the HC, Rahul Gandhi said among other things, that the “BJP and RSS were essentially the same” and while he had meant to speak about the BJP’s position on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, he had said RSS instead.

He had further said that the “imputation made against the RSS was true” and therefore, constituted a ground for his defence to the defamation proceedings.

His plea was dismissed by the HC in 2015.

Kunte said in his plea before the HC that Rahul Gandhi had nowhere denied having made the speech and merely explained the circumstances surrounding his speech as his defence.

He further said by filing the petition in the HC and listing the above mentioned grounds, Rahul Gandhi had in a way verified the transcript of such speech. The transcript, therefore, had been “proved,” Kunte said.

“Reading of the writ petition (Gandhi’s) shows that it squarely relies on the transcript of the speech and in fact substantiates the same (transcript) to be genuine,” Kunte said in his plea in the HC.

Thus, he had urged the HC to permit the use of the transcript as evidence in the defamation proceedings pending before the Bhiwandi court and quash the magistrate court’s order denying him such relief in 2018.

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