"Who Is The Chowkidaar? [Courtroom Exchange In Meenakshi Lekhi Vs Rahul Gandhi Contempt Case Hearing]
The Bench has exempted Rahul Gandhi from personal appearance on April 30
"What is the Mr. Rahul Gandhi's response? We haven't read the response. Is there any obligation that we should read it and come?", quipped Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi at the outset.
"He says I have made a wrong statement, that the Supreme Court never said 'chowkidaar chor hai'...the order was only as to the preliminary issue and he says I didn't read the order and what was given to me was not clear to me. He says he said it in a euphoric manner as that day the Supreme Court had rejected the preliminary objection...he says I hold the Supreme Court in greatest esteem, writing 'I regret' in brackets...this is no apology, only a lip service of an apology...", Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for petitioner and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, advanced.
"Without reading the order, you told the public that the Supreme Court says the PM is a 'chor' and you call yourself a responsible head of a political party? Your Lordships order neither mentions the PM, nor uses (the name of) Narendra Modi, nor 'chor', nor 'chowkidaar'!", he continued.
"We were supposed to use the word 'chowkidaar'? Who is the chowkidaar?", asked the Chief Justice jovially.
"Ask him! It was his submission to the public from Amethi to Wayanad that the Supreme Court said that the PM is the chowkidaar and the chowkidaar is a chor! You (Gandhi) have so many lawyers! They couldn't tell you the interpretation (of the order)? What are you trying to do? If the Supreme Court says something, the public believes it! And You go around saying that the Court said this? You are indulging in petty political games? There has to be Some limit to this attitude!", urged Mr. Rohatgi.
"Contrition has to be expressed in the beginning. There are 20 judgments of this court that say contrition has to be expressed in words at the earliest opportunity! And he says 'I regret' in brackets? Is this the way?", persisted Mr. Rohatgi.
When he sought some time to file a rejoinder, the Chief Justice observed that the court shall grant him more time as it would club the contempt petition with the Rafale review.
In his turn, Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, for Gandhi, pointed out that the court had only a sought explanation from his client, being cautious of not issuing notice, and hence, no question of a rejoinder arose and that the matter be closed now.
"You are asking for notice? we will issue notice. You are pointing out we have forgotten? we will do that!", commented the Chief Justice.
"For the last 18 months, there has been a political slogan in the country. I stand by it- Chowkidar chor hai!...Your Lordships say that to err is human. I regret attributing this statement to you, or indicating that Your Lordships would ever endorse or record a finding to that effect...", submitted Dr. Singhvi.
Stating that in as many as 12 statements, the PM and other leaders have that the top court has given them a clean chit, Dr. Singhvi argued that the Gandhi's statement was made in the heat of the moment when the camera was put on him-
"Lot of people said your judgment was a political vindication...After I filed my affidavit, the most independent news channel carried out a tirade...Now there is Mr. Rohatgi's verbal tirade...can this flogging go on?"
The bench then proceeded to issue formal notice on the plea, listing it to be heard next Tuesday with the review petition.