In a small relief to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, has released an order exempting Gandhi from personally appearing in the contempt plea scheduled to be heard on April 30 along with other review petitions on the Rafale deal.
The Order released by the apex court read:
On the basis of the statements made by Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, learned senior counselappearing for the alleged contemnor, we deem it proper to issue notice in the matter. Personal presence of the alleged contemnor is dispensed with, for the present. We also deem it proper to direct the Registry to list the present contempt petition alongwith R.P.(Crl.) 46/2019 and connected Review Petitions and Miscellaneous Applications on 30.4.2019.
This development comes mere hours after the Supreme Court had served a contempt notice to Gandhi over wrongly attributing his 'Chowkidar chor hai' remark to the apex court's order in the Rafale review petitions after filing his nomination papers in Amethi.
The Supreme Court took up the case on Tuesday, a day after the Congress president admitted via an affidavit that he had made the remarks 'in the heat of political campaigning' and expressed regret for the same.
The Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, questioned Rahul Gandhi's counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi asking "who is Chowkidar? Did we mention Chowkidar in the court order?"
Mukul Rohtagi, senior counsel and former Attorney General of India, was appearing for BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, the petitioner in this case, and said that the apology was a mere 'lip service of an apology by Rahul Gandhi' as he has been saying 'Chowkidar chor hai, all the way from Amethi to Wayanad.'
The Supreme Court then issued a contempt notice to Rahul Gandhi and has a set a date for Tuesday, April 30, to hear the plea along with the Rafale deal review petitions.
On Monday, in an affidavit in response to a contempt of court plea filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, Rahul Gandhi had admitted that he had wrongly attributed his 'Supreme Court has said Chowkidar Chor Hai' remark made after filing his nomination in Amethi to the apex court 'in the heat of political campaigning' and was regretful for the same.
"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," Gandhi had stated in the affidavit.
The Supreme Court on April 15 had issued a notice to the Congress president asking him to respond to the criminal contempt petition filed by BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi, following his statement that 'Supreme Court said that Chowkidar is involved in a theft' ('Supreme Court ne keh diya ki Chowkidar ne chori ki hai') while addressing the media after filing his nomination papers in Amethi.