The top court will consider the matter again on Tuesday.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday expressed “regret” for remarks in which his “chowkidar chor hai” slogan “got intermingled with my comments on and references” to the Supreme Court’s order in the Rafale matter and said “my statement was made in the heat of political campaigning”. He said “it is ex hypothesi clear and obvious that no court, much less the Apex Court, would adopt, endorse or uphold a political slogan like the above”.
These form part of an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court which had sought Gandhi’s “explanation” after BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi sought initiation of contempt proceedings against him. The court will consider the matter again on Tuesday.
In her plea, Lekhi said Gandhi, while referring to the court’s April 10 order rejecting the Centre’s objections to the admissibility of certain documents submitted by review petitioners in the Rafale deal matter, had attributed his own statements about “chowkidar chor hai” to the court ruling.
After the April 10 order: Gandhi had said: “Supreme Court ne clear kar diya hai ki chowkidarji ne chori karwai (Supreme Court has made it clear that chowkidarji got the theft done)”.
In his affidavit, Gandhi said: “On 10.04.2019, at the time of and in my statement, the issues relating to court proceedings unfortunately got juxtaposed and mingled with a political slogan being used extensively by answering Respondent’s party as well as answering Respondent for the last several months, which is a matter of intense and frenzied public debate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. That slogan is ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’… It is unfortunate that this slogan got intermingled with my comments on and references to the Apex Court’s order.”
“My statement was made in the heat of political campaigning. It has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this Court had said Chowkidar Chor Hai! Nothing could be farther from my mind. It is also clear that no court would ever do that and hence the unfortunate references (for which I express regret) to the court order and to the political slogan juxtaposition in the same breath in the heat of political campaigning ought not to be construed as suggesting that the court had given any finding or conclusion on that issue,” he said.
His statements, he said, were made “in Hindi in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment”.
“It was during a political campaign without a readable copy of the Supreme Court order being available on its website and, therefore, without the answering Respondent having seen or read the order and relying upon electronic and social media reportage and the version of workers and activists surrounding the Respondent,” his affidavit stated.
He, however, took the opportunity “to reaffirm his stand and belief and that of his party that the Rafale deal is a tainted transaction and a gross and brazen abuse of executive power and a leading example of the corruption of the BJP Government led by Prime Minister Modi, which deserves to be investigated thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee and proceeded against thereafter”.
The affidavit stated that Modi had “given an interview to ABP News channel which was aired on prime time and on social media on 06.04.2019 wherein, in reply to a question about the Rafale deal, the Prime Minister clearly suggested that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had given him a clean chit in the Rafale deal and that the channel was asking about a ‘false news’ as per the Supreme Court. Several limbs of the Government and of the ruling party have repeatedly stated that the order dated 14.12.2018 of this Hon’ble Court constitutes a clean chit to the government.”
He said “it was in this context that the Hon’ble Court’s order dated 10.04.2019 rejecting the challenge of maintainability of the review petition by the Government and deciding to go ahead with the hearing of the matter was seen generally as a vindication of the stand of several sections opposed to the government and the ruling party”.
He said he “did not have the slightest or remotest intention, desire or even thought process, to bring the court into the political arena, or bring it into disrepute or attribute do it deliberately or wilfully that which the court had not said or meant”.
On Gandhi’s affidavit, BJP leader and Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters, said: “It looks like Gandhi has expressed regret only for political convenience, to escape the wrath of the Supreme Court… It’s a matter of credibility which is what gets hit badly when people in public life are pushed to a circumstance by the court or any other to have to say regret for having said something untruth or false. His credibility takes a hit. He lost his credibility.” Sitharaman said the matter is still subjudice.