Defamation case for RSS comment: Rahul, Yechury plead not guilty, to face trial

MUMBAI: congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the CPM secretary general will face trial after pleading not guilty on Thursday in a case brought against him by a worker.

Amid heavy security, Rahul Gandhi and Yechury appeared before the Mazgaon-Sewree metropolitan magistrate's court following summons issued to them in February this year.

The court read the complaint to the two leaders aloud and asked whether they pleaded guilty or not to the charges against them.

Rahul and Yechury, who pleaded not guilty, will now face a trial during which the court will record their statements and those of the complainant, as well as other witnesses.

The court granted them bail of a guarantee of 15,000 rupees each, together with the permanent exemption from appearing before him during the hearings of the case.

Former Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad stood as surety for Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul and Yechury then signed the necessary documents and left the court premises.

This is the second defamation case which Rahul Gandhi faces in Maharashtra. He is already facing trial in a complaint filed at Bhiwandi in neighboring Thane district by a local RSS worker, for allegedly blaming the Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.

Dhrutiman Joshi, an activist and defender of the RSS, filed a private complaint in 2017 against Rahul and Yechury, requesting that defamation proceedings be instituted against them for allegedly linking the RSS with the murder of the journalist.

Meanwhile, around 250 party supporters gathered outside the court premises and shouted slogans asking the Rahul to withdraw his resignation as president of Congress.

Gandhi greeted them as he walked through the doors of the court.

Gandhi honored the summons issued against him by this court. He pleaded not guilty, which means he will face a trial. The court published the matter for a new hearing on September 21, said Rahul's lawyer, Kushal Mor.

According to lawyers and court staff, Rahul seemed relaxed and was paying close attention to court proceedings.

When magistrate P I Mokashi called out Rahul Gandhi and Yechury's names, the duo stepped into the witness box and listened to the judge reading out the complaint.

Joshi had filed the complaint in 2017 against Rahul Gandhi, then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

We will pursue the case ... the trial will continue ... the truth will prevail, Joshi told the media outside the court.

Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru in September 2017, allegedly by members of a right-wing extremist group.

Joshi alleged that within 24 hours of his death, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP, against the ideology of the RSS, is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed.

According to his complaint, Yechury also stated that it was the ideology of the RSS and the RSS people that killed the journalist, a well-known critic of right-wing politics.

The court issued summons to Rahul Gandhi and Yechury, but dismissed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi and the CPM, saying a party can not be held liable for comments made by individuals.