Defamation case: Rahul, Yechury plead not guilty, to face trial
Mumbai, Jul 4 : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury will face trial after pleading not guilty on Thursday in a defamation case filed against them by an RSS worker.
Amid heavy security, Gandhi and Yechury appeared before the Mazgaon-Sewree metropolitan magistrate's court following summons issued to them in February this year.
The court read out the complaint to the two leaders and asked if they were pleading guilty or not to the charges levelled against them.
Gandhi and Yechury, who pleaded not guilty, will now face trial during which the court would record their statements and that of the complainant as well as other witnesses.
The court granted them bail on a surety amount of Rs 15,000 each along with permanent exemption from appearance before it during the hearings in the case.
Former Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad stood as surety for Gandhi.
Gandhi and Yechury then signed necessary documents and left the court premises.
This is the second defamation case which Gandhi faces in Maharashtra. He is already facing trial in a complaint filed at Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district by a local RSS worker, for allegedly blaming the Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi's assassination.
Dhrutiman Joshi, an RSS activist and advocate had filed a private complaint in 2017 against Gandhi and Yechury, seeking defamation proceedings to be initiated against them for allegedly linking RSS to the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Meanwhile, around 250 party supporters gathered outside the court premises and shouted slogans asking the Gandhi scion to take back his resignation as Congress president.
Gandhi greeted them while walking into the court gates.
"Gandhi honoured the summons issued against him by this court. He has pleaded not guilty, which means he will face trial. The court has posted the matter for further hearing on September 21," Gandhi's lawyer Kushal Mor said.
According to lawyers and court staff, Gandhi appeared relaxed and was paying close attention to the court proceedings.
When magistrate P I Mokashi called out 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...trial will go on...truth will prevail," Joshi told mediapersons outside the court.
Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru in September 2017, allegedly by the members of a right-wing extremist group.
Joshi alleged that within 24 hours of her 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."
As per his complaint, Yechury also stated that it was the "RSS ideology and RSS people" who killed the journalist, a known critic of right-wing politics.
The court issued summons to Rahul Gandhi and Yechury, but dismissed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi and the CPI(M), saying a party cannot be held liable for comments made by individuals.