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Rahul Gandhi Can't Be Compelled To Admit Alleged Speech Linking RSS To Gandhi Assassination In Defamation Case : Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
20 Sep 2021 11:13 AM GMT
Rahul Gandhi Cant Be Compelled To Admit Alleged Speech Linking RSS To Gandhi Assassination In Defamation Case : Bombay High Court
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Kunte had accused Gandhi of defaming the RSS by making "false and baseless allegations" by connecting its members to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.

The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) worker Rajesh Kunte's petition seeking directions to a Magistrate in Maharashtra to exhibit transcripts of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's speech as 'evidence' in the ongoing defamation case against him. Kunte has accused Gandhi of defaming the RSS by making "false and baseless allegations" during an election...

The Bombay High Court on Monday dismissed Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) worker Rajesh Kunte's petition seeking directions to a Magistrate in Maharashtra to exhibit transcripts of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's speech as 'evidence' in the ongoing defamation case against him.

Kunte has accused Gandhi of defaming the RSS by making "false and baseless allegations" during an election rally in 2014 by connecting its members to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.

A single bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere observed that just because Gandhi had annexed a certified copy of speech's transcript to his quashing petition before the High Court in 2015 didn't mean that the Kunte could compel him to admit the document. The CD would have to be proved at the time of trial, the Court added.

"Merely because the said transcript was annexed to the petition (Gandhi's plea in HC), does not mean that the said document has been admitted by him, thereby absolving the petitioner from proving the same."

"It is well settled that if an accused is compelled to deny or admit a document, it would be contrary to the constitutional mandate, inasmuch as, it would violate Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India."

The RSS worker approached the High Court challenging the JMFC's order refusing to 'exhibit' the speech after Gandhi denied its genuineness under section 294 of the CrPC.

Under the said section, if an accused accepts a document, it can be used as evidence or exhibited; otherwise, it has to be proved at the time of trial.

In 2014, the Magistrate issued process against Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi challenged the order before the High Court and the Supreme Court but in vain.

Kunte claimed that since Gandhi had annexed transcripts of his speech to his plea, they must be exhibited. According to his counsel Nitin Pradhan, the writ petition along with its annexures form a consolidated pleading, both on facts and law and that the same cannot be separated or segregated when presented in judicial proceedings under Section 294 Cr.P.C.

The Court said that this argument was wholly misconceived and it was settled law that the prosecution has to stand on its own feet.

Justice Dere disagreed with his contention."Merely because a document of the complainant (petitioner) is annexed to the petition filed by the respondent. would not make such a document a `public document', obtained from whichever source, thus giving a complete go-by to the complainant (petitioner) from proving the same in accordance with law. Prosecution/complainant has to stand on its own feet and prove its case on its own steam."

The court further said that the scope of Section 294 of the CrPC is to shorten the prosecution evidence and to ensure that certain documents when admitted by the accused, need not be proved by the prosecution.

The legislative intent was not to bind the accused persons or compel them to admit or deny the genuineness of the documents produced by the prosecution, the court held.

It added that if an accused has the right to remain silent under Article 20 (3) of the Constitution, and same is sacrosanct in a criminal trial.

"Thus, it is clearly evident that an accused cannot be compelled to admit/deny any document. The right of an accused to remain silent flows from the Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India and is sacrosanct in a criminal trial. No Court can compel or direct an accused to admit/deny any document. It is also not the intent of the legislature under Section 294 Cr.P.C," she said citing Niwas Keshav Raut's case.

Case Title: Rajesh Kunte v. Rahul Gandhi

Appearances – Advocates Niteen Pradhan a/w Shubhada Khot i/b Mr. Amarendra Mishra for the Petitioner

Advocates Sudip Pasbola i/b Mr. Kushal Mor for Rahul Gandhi

S. S. Hulke, A.P.P for the Respondent No.2–State

Click Here To Read/ Download Judgement



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