New Delhi: It's a massive setback to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in connection with defamation case against him in which he had blamed RSS for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Flaying Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked him to apologise or face trial for blaming RSS for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
"We have held it may be historically correct but the fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can't make collective denunciation," a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and RF Nariman said, posting the matter for further hearing on July 27.
The bench was hearing an appeal filed by Rahul seeking quashing of a criminal defamation case ordered by a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra for a public speech in which he had linked the RSS to Gandhi's killing.
"Freedom is not crippled or curbed. What is curbed is defamatory speech. What the writers, politicians, critics or antagonists say, you must have great magnitude to swallow," it said.
Wondering why he made a speech quoting "wrong historical fact", the court observed, "What we have to see is whether the petitioner's allegations come under Section 499 (defamation) of IPC or not. Judgement is already there. You have to face trial, if you don't express regret."
Rahul had earlier also refused to accept the apex court's suggestion to express regret over his statement blaming RSS for Mahatma Gandhi's killing to close the defamation case against him but he decided to contest it.
In his reaction, RSS' communications department Head Manmohan Vaidya said the "Congress had been consistently trying to spread lies and baseless allegations about RSS. Today's Supreme Court ruling has exposed the Congress."
"They (Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders) are avoiding the trial and are repeating the same false allegations against RSS. It seems he does not have faith in India's legal system and respect for it," he told PTI.
Meanwhile, reacting to the court's observations, the Congress today said that Gandhi will not tender an apology and will instead substantiate them with historical facts and evidence before the court to support his claim.
"On a suggestion of Shri Rahul Gandhi expressing regret or apology, the question does not arise. Such a suggestion has been made in the past and not accepted by Rahul Gandhi. Mr Gandhi is a mature politician with intimate knowledge of historical facts. Congress Party and Mr Gandhi will defend these remarks at appropriate forum," Congress' chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.
He added that since the matter is pending adjudication, "we will not like to comment further on the issue".
(With PTI inputs)