Congress President Rahul Gandhi expressed "regret" once again in the Supreme Court on Monday for his "chowkidar chor hai" remark on the Rafale judgement, which the apex court had said was "incorrectly attributed" to it.
The apex court on April 15 had given a categorical clarification that in its Rafale verdict there was no occasion for it to make a mention of the contemptuous observation that "chowkidar Narendra Modi chor hain" as has been attributed to it by Gandhi.
Gandhi, who filed a fresh affidavit following the formal notice issued to him by the apex court on a criminal contempt petition filed against him by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, has written the word "regret" in bracket.
On April 22, Gandhi had filed an affidavit in response to the apex court's order asking him to give an explanation over his remarks and had said that he was expressing "regret" over it.
However, during the hearing in the matter on April 23, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Lekhi, had told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the word 'regret' was in a bracket and actually it was a "lip service of apology".
In his fresh affidavit, Gandhi reiterated what he had said in his explanation earlier that his statement was made in the "heat of political campaigning" and there was not the "slightest intention to insinuate" anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner.
He said his April 10 statement was made in purely political context to counter the "misinformation campaign" being led by senior BJP functionaries as well as the government that the apex court verdict on December 14 last year was a "clean chit" to the Centre regarding all the aspects of the Rafale deal.
"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 said in his 28-page affidavit.
"It is also clear that no court would ever do that and hence the unfortunate references (for which I express regret) to the court order and to the political slogan in juxtaposition the same breath in the heat of political campaigning ought not to be construed as suggesting that the court had given any finding or conclusion on that issue," Gandhi said in his affidavit filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes.
Gandhi clarified that he did not have the "slightest or remotest intention, desire or even thought process, to bring the court into the political arena or bring it into disrepute or attribute to it deliberately or willfully that which the court had not said or meant".
Referring to a media interview by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gandhi said Modi had "clearly suggested" that the apex court had given him a clean chit in the Rafale deal.
"It was in this context that the court's order dated April 10 rejecting the challenge of maintainability of the review petition by the Government and deciding to go ahead with the hearing of the matter was seen generally as a vindication of the stand of several sections opposed to the government and the ruling party," he said.
Gandhi said he had not done nor remotely intended to do anything to lower the majesty of the Supreme Court in any manner whatsoever.
"There is no intention, direct, indirect, remote, implied or an attempt in any other manner to violate any court order, obstruct the administration of justice, or prejudice or interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings, or scandalize the court in any manner. The said statements were made by the answering respondent (Gandhi) in Hindi in a rhetorical flourish in the heat of the moment," he said.
Gandhi said his statement was made during a "political campaign without a readable copy of the Supreme Court order" being available on its website and he had neither seen nor read the order.
"On April 10, at the time of and in my statement, the issues relating to court proceedings unfortunately got juxtaposed and mingled with a political slogan being used extensively by answering respondent's party (Congress) as well as answering respondent (Gandhi) for the last several months, which is a matter of intense and frenzied public debate during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections," he said.
"The answering respondent (Gandhi) would take this opportunity to reaffirm his stand and belief and that of his party that the Rafale deal is a tainted transaction and a gross and brazen abuse of executive power and a leading example of the corruption of the BJP Government led by Prime Minister Modi, which deserves to be investigated thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee and proceeded against thereafter," he said.
Gandhi, who said that he is a responsible political and public figure heading a 130-year-old political party, sought dismissal of Lekhi's plea saying it was an "abuse of process" of the court.
"In view of the above, it is submitted that the present petition be dismissed in limine at the very threshold with costs. It is further submitted that by this petition, it is the applicant-petitioner (Lekhi) who is seeking to drag the court into a political controversy for personal gains and political mileage," he said.
The apex court had earlier said it will hear Lekhi's contempt petition on April 30.
In her plea, Lekhi, the Lok Sabha MP from New Delhi constituency, has alleged that Gandhi has attributed his personal remarks to the top court and tried to create prejudice.