New Delhi: Hours after Supreme Court observed that Rahul, who had blamed RSS for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, will have to face trial in the defamation case against him if he does not express regret, Congress said that party vice president will not tender an apology over his remarks.
The grand old party said that he will instead substantiate them with historical facts and evidence before the court to support his claim.
Rahul Gandhi had moved the apex court in May last year seeking quashing of the criminal defamation case lodged against him for his comments. The case is pending before a magisterial court in Bhiwandi in Maharashtra's Thane district.
SC had granted interim stay on the proceedings of the case before the magisterial court.
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 had decided to contest it.
Rahul will not apologise, says Congress
"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".
The Congress leader said that Rahul had challenged constitutionality of defamation proceeding besides the order of Maharashtra High Court wherein summoning order was challenged.
He said while the bunch of petitions challenging defamation provisions have been rejected, challenge to Maharashtra High Court order is pending adjudication before Supreme Court in a Special leave petition.
"The matter was listed today. Supreme Court adjourned the hearing to July 27 without passing any order. Any remark exchanged at the bar between counsel for the parties and court cannot be commented upon as the matter is subjudice," he said, as per PTI.
On the other hand, at the AICC briefing, party spokesman Gaurav Gogoi said, "At this point, Congress party stands with Rahul Gandhi."
Asked about today's order of the SC, he said there is a case which is undergoing in the apex court and the final judgement is yet to be heard and the case is also yet to be heard on its full merits, for which they are waiting.
"Today, the Supreme Court has made some observations. We would not like to comment on the observations. Nonetheless, we are confident that when the case would be heard on its merits, we will present historical evidence and documents that support Rahul Gandhi's claim. We respect the SC."
Observations by the Supreme Court court
"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.
"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, as per PTI.
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."
It also said "the purpose of law is not to convert people into litigants. Purpose of law is that people obey law. Peace and harmony should prevail rather than chaos."
Senior advocate Harin Raval, appearing for Rahul, said whatever was said in the speech was on the basis of government records and on the basis of decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court and he was not referring to RSS directly.
The bench after perusing the judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, said it only says that Nathuram Godse was an RSS worker and added that Godse killed Gandhi and RSS killed Gandhi are two different things.
Justice Misra pointed out, "history is the greatest enemy of privacy. Over the years, attempts have been made to enter into the lives of historically eminent personalities to give a new dimension."
(With PTI inputs)