The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker Rajesh Kunte challenging an order of a Thane Court in pending criminal defamation proceedings against Gandhi (Rajesh Kunte v, Rahul Gandhi & Ors.).
Justice Revati Mohite Dere passed the order dismissing the petition and upholding the order passed by a Bhiwani Magistrate Court in Thane.
The Magistrate court had rejected an application filed by Kunte seeking admission or denial of the alleged defamatory speech made by Gandhi.
Kunte had initiated defamation proceedings before the Bhiwandi Court against Gandhi over an alleged speech of 2014.
Kunte accused Gandhi of making defamatory statements by stating that Hindu organization RSS was responsible for the assassination of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
Gandhi had moved the High Court seeking quashing of the criminal complaint and in his writ petition, he had annexed a transcript of the speech which led to the defamation proceedings.
Even though Gandhi's petition was dismissed by the High Court, Kunte contended that by annexing a copy of his speech in the petition, Gandhi unambiguously owned up the speech, even though in the petition he tried to justify the speech for various grounds.
Kunte had submitted that emphasis on the genuineness of the speech was essential to advert to the grounds of challenge mention in the plea.
The Magistrate Court however rejected the application, which came to be challenged by Kunte in the High Court in a plea filed through advocate Tapan Thatte.
Advocate Kushal Mor appearing for Gandhi opposed the petition by contending that the entire plea was filed with an intention to delay and scuttle the trial.
To substantiate this argument, it was pointed out that Kunte had not taken any efforts for the present petition to be heard since 2019.
Mor argued that the transcript was a document of the petitioner (Kunte) which he was required to prove during the course of the trial.
Mor submitted to the court that it was imperative at the stage of challenging the summoning order that the material before the Trial Court which formed the basis of summoning be placed before the High Court for appreciation.
Citing Section 294 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (admission and denial of documents), Mor argued that the intention of the legislature was to reduce the evidence required by prosecution to prove the admitted documents and it was not to bind the accused person or force him to admit or deny the genuineness of the documents produced by the prosecution.
He added that for this reason there was no propriety in asking the Court to pass an order directing the accused to admit a document for which formal proof is required from the complainant (Kunte in this case).
He added that seeking such direction violated Gandhi's constitutional right under Article 20(3) and hence, the petition was required to be dismissed.