The SC gave Rahul a week to respond to the petition which accused him of contempt for wrongly telling the public that the SC had found the PM guilty of corruption in the fighter jet deal. Along with the notice to him on BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi’s petition, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna gave two crucial clarifications contradicting Rahul’s public claim on the order which, the court said, concerned the purely legal question of admissibility of certain documents relating to the Rafale contract.
The SC reference was to Rahul’s comments that “now the SC has accepted that chowkidar has done the theft. The court has said that. In Rafale (deal), two persons have indulged in corruption, one is Narendra Modi and the other is Anil Ambani. The chowkidar has stolen Rs 30,000 crore from the country and given it to Ambani”.
Opening the arguments for Lekhi, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi read out Rahul’s alleged contemptuous statement and accused the Congress president of committing the indefensible contempt of the SC by claiming that the apex court had accepted that “chowkidar is chor”. The CJI immediately said, “You are right. We did not say any such thing.” The bench added, “We make it clear that this court had no occasion to record any view or finding or make any observation as allegedly attributed to the court by the respondent (Rahul Gandhi) inasmuch as what was decided by this court was a purely legal question of admissibility of certain documents to which objections were raised by the learned attorney general.”
While seeking Rahul’s explanation by April 22 and fixing hearing on April 23, the bench also clarified that politicians must desist from attributing any meaning to the court’s order unless specifically recorded so in the order. “We further observe that no views, observations or findings should be attributed to the court in political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court,” the bench said. This contrasts with the claim Rahul made in his speech, “The Supreme Court says Narendra Modi, who has become chowkidar, is a thief.” Given the tone and tenor of the SC order, Rahul could find it difficult to defend his statement in the light of clarifications recorded in Monday’s order. The SC permitted Lekhi to file an additional affidavit to bring extra material against Rahul.
In her petition filed on Friday, Lekhi accused Rahul of committing contempt of court by twisting and attributing meaning to the SC’s April 10 order, which had rejected the Centre’s objection to the court scrutinising three documents relating to the Rafale deal in the light of a plea for reviewing its December 14 judgment giving a clean chit to the Modi government in procurement of 36 fully loaded Rafale jets from Dassault through an inter-government agreement with France and inclusion of a firm owned by Anil Ambani as an offset partner.
Under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, an individual can file a contempt petition against another only on getting the nod from the AG or the solicitor general. Since AG K K Venugopal had argued the Rafale case, the certification of Lekhi’s contempt petition was given by the SG. Lekhi, who represents the New Delhi constituency in Lok Sabha, is a lawyer and the wife of additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi.
Lekhi said the SC had neither uttered a single word on corruption in the Rafale deal nor even hinted about any involvement of the PM. The review petitioners too had not mentioned a single word on corruption against the PM, she said. Rahul’s statements twisted the SC’s order and attributed meaning to it, thereby committing contempt and attempting to misrepresent the SC order in public, she added.
She said Rahul’s statements were meant to create prejudice against the PM, not only in the minds of people but also MPs “who like me are working under his leadership”.