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EC shouldn't let Rahul Gandhi walk away by expressing ‘regret’ after cynical twisting of SC order on Rafale deal

So, Rahul Gandhi apparently “regrets” misquoting the Supreme Court on the Rafale review plea and has claimed that he got “carried away in the heat of political campaigning” when he declared vindication following the apex court’s move to admit fresh evidence into the plea. While filing nomination papers in Amethi, Rahul had claimed before reporters that the Supreme Court has "upheld his allegations” against the prime minister of having “committed a theft in Rafale deal”.

The Supreme Court, of course, said no such thing. It never passed a judgment on the Rafale review plea on 10 April and had only admitted three sets of documents as “evidence” whose veracity was questioned by the Centre. The apex court decided to examine the three documents, rejecting the Centre’s submission that they were stolen from classified government files. Whether these documents have any import on the review plea or not is for the court to decide.

The Congress president saw in this development an opportune political moment and sought to press home his advantage. Shortly after the Supreme Court allowed the fresh documents, Rahul told reporters in Amethi that “Supreme Court has accepted that there is some form of corruption in the Rafale deal and ‘Chowkidar ne chori karwayi hai’ (the watchman has got the theft done)”.

This was brought to the notice of the court by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, who in a contempt petition filed before the Supreme Court, pointed out that “the words used and attributed by him (Rahul Gandhi) to the Supreme Court in the Rafale case have been made to appear something else. He is replacing his personal statement as the Supreme Court’s order and trying to create prejudice”.

 EC shouldnt let Rahul Gandhi walk away by expressing ‘regret’ after cynical twisting of SC order on Rafale deal

Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses an election campaign meeting at Amethi. PTI

When the matter came up before a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna on 15 April, the apex court had asked the Congress president to explain his statement and observed that “the court had no such occasion to make any such observation.” The bench, according to reports, said Rahul Gandhi had incorrectly attributed “views, observations and findings” in the Rafale case to the top court.

Rahul Gandhi, now cornered, sought to obfuscate his way out of trouble. In his affidavit before the Supreme Court, he claimed to have made the comment “in the heat of the political campaigning” and “regretted” at having done so.

For the president of a party to “misquote” the Supreme Court and attribute his own political statements to a bench’s observations amid the elections is not an honest mistake. It is a cynical strategy to lend some judicial credibility to his political campaign on Rafale. A look at the affidavit make it clear that the Congress president is still trying to wriggle out of a tight corner despite admitting to lying and expressing regret.

Rahul Gandhi in his affidavit has said that his statement was made in “Hindi in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment. It was during a political campaign without a readable copy of the Supreme Court order being available on its website and, therefore, without the answering Respondent having seen or read the order and relying upon electronic and social media reportage and the version of workers and activists surrounding the Respondent.”

In other words, because some journalists had crowded around Rahul Gandhi and sought his reaction on Supreme Court verdict (which is the duty of journalists), the Congress president, without having read or even seen the order, made a deliberate political statement and attributed it to the Supreme Court before the media in a “Hindi rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment”.

By his own admission, Rahul Gandhi — a aspirant for the prime minister's post — believes that one may twist the Supreme Court’s words to suit political needs, bring the office of the prime minister into disrepute without even a single look at the Supreme Court order, and such behavior should be contextualized in the form of “Hindi”, “rhetorical flourish”, and “heat of the moment”. Is Rahul Gandhi giving up all pretensions to even a modicum of maturity?

The Congress president should not be allowed to walk away with “regret” after misquoting the Supreme Court. If Rahul Gandhi gets away by merely expressing “regret” after attributing false statements to a constitutional body and the highest seat of judiciary to serve the purpose of political opportunism, then it creates a dangerous precedent for the future and paves the way for willful erosion of institutional credibility.

Moreover, if Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to bring the prime minister’s office into disrepute based on a deliberate misreading of the Supreme Court order is merely “heat of the moment” stuff, then what explains the Election Commission’s banning of Mayawati, Yogi Adityanath or Maneka Gandhi? What explains the Election Commission's decision to send a notice to Sadhvi Pragya Singh, the BJP candidate from Bhopal, on her comments about Hemant Karkare?

If the comments made by BSP chief Mayawati, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath or BJP MP Maneka Gandhi are serious enough to draw penalties from the EC, then Rahul Gandhi’s deliberate twisting of the Supreme Court’s words to suit political ends and the move to justify his comments with lame excuses should also count as a breach of the Model Code of Conduct and invite strict punishment from the Election Commission.

The Congress president suffers from low credibility in his charges. Perhaps that’s why he sought to legitimise his allegations by wrongly attributing statements to the Supreme Court. If the Election Commission lets this derisive strategy go unpunished and lets Rahul off the hook, one fears more subversions of constitutional institutions could be forthcoming. After all, this is a politician who didn’t think twice before tearing apart an ordinance passed by the Manmohan Singh government. His respect for institutions is well-known.

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2019 21:37:58 IST