Rahul Gandhi outside Bhiwandi court.
Rahul Gandhi today pleaded “not guilty”, as charges were framed against him by a judge in a defamation case filed by an RSS leader in Maharashtra. He will face trial on the charge of harming the reputation of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP.
“This is a fight for ideology. We will win,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters after the hearing.
The Congress vice president has been sued over his comments at a rally before the 2014 election blaming the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. The case was filed by an RSS worker, Rajesh Kunte. In 2016, he was granted bail by the court in Bhiwandi, which is around 32 kilometres from Mumbai.
Mr Gandhi arrived in court this morning surrounded by heavy security; he was greeted by slogan-shouting Congress workers.
As he took the stand, judge AI Sheikh read out charges and asked: “Do you plead guilty?”
The 47-year-old replied, “I plead not guilty”.
The Congress president had in 2016 requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the case but he later withdrew the petition, telling the court that he was ready to be tried on charges of defaming the RSS. The RSS had said at the time it could drop the suit if Mr Gandhi stated publicly that he does not blame it as an institution for the death of the Mahatma. Mr Gandhi, however, told the court that it is not an option.
On a two-day visit to Maharashtra, Mr Gandhi is expected to address party workers in Mumbai and interact with corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC, India’s richest civic body.