The Bombay High Court was informed on Thursday that the local court had initiated criminal proceedings and issued summons against the Congress leader Raul Gandhi only after forming an opinion that the evidence prima facie points to an offence.
Girgaon magistrate had directed Gandhi to remain personally present in the court on November 25, which was challenged by the Congress leader.
Mahesh Shrishrimal, the BJP party worker, had filed a defamation complaint before the magistrate alleging that Gandhi's remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 over the Rafale fighter jet deal was defamatory.
Last month, a single bench of Justice S K Shinde directed the magistrate to defer the hearing on the defamation plaint which meant the Congress leader would not be required to appear before the magistrate.
On Thursday, justice Shinde extended the relief to Gandhi from personal appearance before the magistrate till January 25, 2022. The HC has kept Gandhi’s plea for hearing on January 18, 2022.
Shrishrimal on Thursday filed his affidavit in HC seeking dismissal of Gandhi’s plea stating that the magistrate’s court had issued the summons only after scrutinizing the evidence submitted by Shrishrimal.
His affidavit reads: “It is pertinent to note that before passing the order of issuance of the process (summons), the Magistrate has formed opinion that factual ingredients constituting the offence existed and therefore the process was issued against the petitioner/accused summoning him for trial.”
Shrishrimal further claimed that he is a member of the BJP Maharashtra Pradesh Committee since 1997 and has been aggrieved by the defamatory remarks made by Gandhi against the PM. He has claimed that Gandhi, through his remarks tried to insinuate and imply that the BJP was a party of thieves and that the Prime Minister was its commander.
The magistrate had initiated criminal proceedings against Gandhi in August 2019. However, the Congress leader in his petition before HC claimed that he learnt about the same only in July 2021.
In September 2018, Gandhi had conducted a rally in Rajasthan and during the said rally made defamatory statements against the PM. Due to the said defamatory statement, Modi was allegedly trolled by various news channels and on social media platforms.
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