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Rahul Gandhi to face criminal contempt proceedings on Tuesday: SC observations likely to impact remaining phases of LS polls

Facing criminal contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court, Rahul Gandhi expressed "regret" for wrongly attributing his 'chowkidar chor hai' jibe to an order by the apex court. His argument was that this was done in the "heat of political campaigning" and that he had not done it "intentionally" or "deliberately".

Rahul is no ordinary person. He is Congress president and one of the prime ministerial aspirants from the Opposition ranks — somebody who could have, it's been said, become prime minister at any moment between 2004 and 2014 if he so desired. He is the scion of the Congress first family, that ruled India for around 60 years since India's Independence. He is also said to hold an MPhil degree from Cambridge University. He would thus know the import of Supreme Court orders and whether or not they can be used as per whims, attributing it to things it never said, in a bid to gain political mileage.

What the Congress president had said after Supreme Court gave its ruling on a technical matter — whether the new documents as referred by some media publications on the Rafale deal were admissible while hearing a review petition on the issue — actually amounted to saying that the Supreme Court had completely reversed its original ruling.

 Rahul Gandhi to face criminal contempt proceedings on Tuesday: SC observations likely to impact remaining phases of LS polls

File image of Rahul Gandhi. Twitter @INCIndia

In its December 2018 ruling, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had said, "[The] perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving inquiry by this court, especially in such matters." The court had dismissed all the writ petitions seeking a Supreme Court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the deal. "We are satisfied that there is no occasion to really doubt the process, and even if minor deviations have occurred, that would not result in either setting aside the contract or requiring a detailed scrutiny by the court," it had said.

The court will hear arguments from both sides on the contempt petition on Tuesday.

The Congress president now says in his affidavit that "it is unfortunate that this slogan got intermingled with my comments on and references to the apex court’s order dated 10.04.2019. My statement was made in the heat of political campaigning. It has been used (and misused) by my political opponents to project that I had deliberately and intentionally suggested that this Court had said Chowkidar Chor Hai! Nothing could be farther from my mind". He goes on to add that this was done in the heat of political campaigning.

On 10 April, Rahul had said after filing his nomination papers from Amethi that it was clear from the Supreme Court order that the chowkidar had committed a theft — given Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani. He had come out on his on his own to give a statement on Rafale. He had enough time to check his facts, either on his own or from the many legal luminaries his party employs at various ranks. He came to the media having decided what he had to say. In his own wisdom, he attributed everything that he had so far been saying about Modi and Rafale for months to the Supreme Court order.

It is clear from his affidavit that the Congress president realises he could be in deep trouble for having rubbed the Supreme Court the wrong way. He thus now gives an undertaking that he "will not attribute any views, observations or findings to the Court in political addresses to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the court".

The issue has made another dent in Rahul's credibility. This is not the first time he has interpreted the Supreme Court order in different way. Rahul and the Congress had not accepted the Supreme Court's December 2018 verdict on the Rafale deal. The party also didn't believe that the CAG report on Rafale was right. But he seemed to be unmindful of it.

Hours after apologising in Supreme Court, he was back to his chowkidar chor hai jibe. Speaking at a rally in Uttar Pradesh, he continued speaking the way he has been speaking about Modi on the Rafale deal for months.

All eyes will be on the Supreme Court when it hears arguments on contempt as part of BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi's criminal contempt peitition against Rahul. The court's observation is sure to rock polity and shape political discourse for remaining phases of the ongoing parliamentary polls.

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2019 18:25:21 IST