New Delhi: On May 10, the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi reserved order on the then Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s plea to close criminal proceedings against him for wrongly attributing the “chowkidar chor hai” remark to the top court. He made the plea after tendering an apology to the apex court. The hearings in the case were high-decibel arguments where the counsels fought hard on political statements made in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Three months on, a verdict is still awaited.
The contempt petition against Gandhi was filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Meenakshi Lekhi. Senior advocate and Lekhi’s counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued that Gandhi should apologize to the public for wrongfully linking the top court in a political speech. “Rahul Gandhi led the public astray by saying that Supreme Court said ‘chowkidar chor hai’. Hence, the court should pass an order asking Rahul Gandhi to apologise,” Rohatgi had argued in the court.
Gandhi used the slogan “chowkidar chor hai” (security guard is a thief) in the elections to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the context of the Rafale fighter deal. In March when the Supreme Court agreed to hear some review petitions in the Rafale deal matter, Gandhi claimed that the top court had also said that “chowkidar chor hai”. The Supreme Court took strong objection to this, asserting that it never said so.
Appearing for Gandhi, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the Congress leader had expressed regret even before the court had issued a notice. The court, however, did not accept it, after which Gandhi tendered an apology. “Therefore, the case should be closed,” Singhvi had argued. Rohatgi countered this, saying that the apology tendered by Gandhi should not be accepted, and necessary action should be taken against him as per the law.
In a three-page affidavit, Gandhi said: “The deponent unconditionally apologizes for the wrongful attribution to the court. The deponent further states that any such attributions were entirely unintentional, non-wilful and inadvertent.” Earlier, Gandhi had expressed regret for his remarks twice in two affidavits, saying that he made the comment in the “heat” of electioneering. This justification did not go down well with the apex court, and it asked the Congress leader to file crisp apology again in the court.