Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has been directed to either tender an apology to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for his defamatory remarks or face trial. The apex court said Rahul should not have resorted to collective denunciation of the right-wing group, when, back in 2015, he alleged “RSS people” killed Mahatma Gandhi.
While addressing a public rally at Sonale in Bhiwandi on March 6, 2014, Rahul Gandhi had said, “Gandhiji was shot dead by RSS people and their people talk of him. They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji.”
“If you won’t apologise, you will have to face trial,” the apex court told Rahul. The bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and RF Nariman added, “We have held it may be historically correct but the fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can’t make collective denunciation.”
The top court also observed, “Freedom is not crippled or curbed. What is curbed is freedom of speech. What the writers, politicians, critics or antagonists say, you must have great magnitude to swallow.”
Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer had argued that his comments was on the basis of government records and on the basis of the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court . He also argued that he was not referring to the RSS directly. By this, he meant that Nathuram Godse was an RSS worker who killed Gandhi, but that does not mean RSS killed him.
To this, Justice Misra said, “History is the greatest enemy of privacy. Over the years, attempts have been made to enter into the lives of historically eminent personalities to give a new dimension.”
Rahul Gandhi had previously challenged the constitutionality of criminal defamation, saying it has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.