Congress leader Rahul Gandhi failed to appear before a Patna court on Wednesday citing preoccupation with his plea of stay on conviction in the criminal defamation case against him in Surat, the hearing for which is scheduled for April 13.
Gandhi was supposed to appear before the MP/MLA court in a defamation suit filed by BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Kumar Modi, over the senior leader’s purported remark on the Modi surname.
Special judicial magistrate Aadi Dev had passed an order on March 18 asking Gandhi to appear before it on April 12. But the former Congress president’s counsel requested that he be given some more time to appear and record his statement.
Dev inquired about the grounds on which the senior leader should be given more time, insisting on a valid reason for extension of time and exemption for the day. Gandhi’s counsel said the entire team was busy with the Surat case, in which Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified from the Lok Sabha.
Opposing this request, Modi’s counsel submitted before the court that Gandhi had disregarded the court order to prolong the case proceedings and, therefore, his bail should be cancelled and arrest warrant issued. The former deputy chief minister has moved an application before the court for issuing an arrest warrant against the former Congress president for failing to appear before the court.
Dev, while refusing to set the date for the next hearing to April 29 as requested by Gandhi’s counsel, granted April 25 as the next date and asked Gandhi’s counsel to ensure his physical appearance before the court.
“We requested another date and the court granted us April 25. It was not an argument, rather an adjustment. A good part of the legal team is involved in the Surat case and so we requested another date,” Gandhi’s counsel told CNN-News18.
“Today, Rahul Gandhi was to remain physically present in the court for recording his statement under Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code. But despite being ordered twice to appear physically, he did not do so today. So, we have given an application stating that he has violated the court order and to cancel his bail bond and issue a warrant of arrest for securing his attendance, on which his lawyer undertook that on the next date, ie, April 25. He will definitely secure his presence in the court for recording evidence. He has to appear on the next date, otherwise his bail bond will be cancelled,” SD Sanjay, advocate for Modi, told CNN-News18.
A legal expert said because Gandhi had appealed against the conviction in an appellate court, there were two possibilities: if his conviction was not reversed, his disqualification as an MP will stand and he will be barred from contesting elections for eight years and, if he gets his conviction reversed, the defamation case in other courts such as in Patna will not be tried under Article 20(2) that defines double jeopardy – “No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once”.
Rahul in Wayanad
While addressing a gathering at Wayanad on Tuesday, Gandhi said, “The MP is just a tag. It’s a position, it’s a post. The BJP can take away the tag, the position, the house, or they can put me in jail. But they cannot stop me from representing the people of Wayanad.”
“It doesn’t matter. It is the biggest gift they could have given me. Because how do I know what I’m doing is right? I know if the BJP is taking away my house, disqualifying me as an MP, attacking me 24×7; I know I am doing something right. The more they attack me, the more I know this is exactly the path I must walk on. And I won’t stop. Not for myself, but for my relationship with you and the people of India,” he added.
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