Defamation case: Rahul Gandhi tells Surat court his Modi surname remark was sarcasm

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appeared before a magistrate's court in Surat on Thursday in a criminal defamation suit over his alleged remarks at a 2019 election rally on people with ‘Modi’ surname and stated he did not remember the exact words he had used.

The defamation case was filed by Surat West MLA Purnesh Modi claiming that Gandhi had insulted the entire Modi community with his remarks. He was the Congress president then.

Rahul Gandhi told the court that he had indeed referred to Narendra Modi in his speech sarcastically and denied painting everyone with Modi surname in the same vein. He said his remarks were not intended to defame all people with that surname.

At an election rally held at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019, Gandhi had reportedly said, "Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi, how is it that they all have Modi as the surname. How come all thieves have the Modi surname?"

Purnesh Modi had filed the complaint against him in April 2019 under IPC sections 499 and 500 that deal with defamation. The MLA had alleged that the Congress leader had defamed the entire Modi community by saying "How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?". “Rahul Gandhi also told the court that there is no community by the name Modi as far as he knows,” his advocate Kirit Panwala told a section of the media.

While admitting the suit, the court had held that there was a prima facie case of criminal defamation against the Lok Sabha member from Wayanad. Gandhi had earlier appeared in the Surat court in October 2019 and had pleaded not guilty.

Last week, Surat's Chief Judicial Magistrate A N Dave directed him to remain present in the court on June 24 to record his final statement in the case. The next hearing has been posted for July 12.

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