Bombay HC Seeks Legal Input in Rahul Gandhi Defamation Case

The Bombay High Court has sought the assistance of Maharashtra’s Advocate General, Birendra Saraf, in a defamation case involving Rahul Gandhi, a prominent Congress leader and Member of Parliament. The case originates from a defamation complaint filed against Gandhi by Mahesh Hukumchand Shrishrimal, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which resulted in criminal proceedings being initiated against Gandhi by a Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Girgaon. The matter pertains to an alleged incident in September 2018 when Rahul Gandhi conducted a political rally in Rajasthan. During the rally, he purportedly made defamatory statements against India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Following the alleged defamatory remarks made by Gandhi, Prime Minister Modi was reportedly subjected to online trolling and negative media coverage across various news channels and social media platforms. In response, the Metropolitan Magistrate Court issued a summons to Rahul Gandhi on August 28, 2019, to appear before the court. Gandhi subsequently challenged this order in the Bombay High Court after receiving the summons in July 2021.

Rahul Gandhi, represented by advocate Kushal Mor, contended that the defamation complaint against him was frivolous, vexatious, and driven by the complainant’s ulterior political motives. Gandhi’s legal team, led by advocate Sudeep Pasbola, argued that there were legal barriers to the complaint’s validity. They cited Section 199(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which stipulates that a sessions court must take cognizance of an offense when it is alleged to have been committed by a public servant in the discharge of their public duties. Pasbola asserted that this provision constituted a legal impediment for Mahesh Shrishrimal, the complainant, preventing him from filing the defamation complaint.

Furthermore, Pasbola pointed out that according to Explanation 2 under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a political party is not considered an eligible entity to file a defamation plea. Consequently, Shrishrimal’s attempt to file the complaint in a representative capacity on behalf of a political party was legally untenable.

In light of these legal complexities and the crucial questions of law raised in the case, Justice SV Kotwal of the Bombay High Court decided to seek the assistance of Maharashtra’s Advocate General. The judge emphasized the importance of addressing the significant legal issues involved in this matter.

As a result, the case has taken a notable turn, with the involvement of the Advocate General expected to provide valuable legal insights. It remains to be seen how this assistance will impact the ongoing legal proceedings and whether Rahul Gandhi’s plea to quash the defamation case will ultimately succeed. The case underscores the intersection of legal principles and political disputes in India’s judicial landscape, with potential ramifications for defamation cases involving public figures in the future.

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