Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been granted permanent exemption from appearing before a Magistrate Court in Bhiwandi in a criminal defamation case filed against him by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary, Rajesh Kunte.
The case was initiated after Gandhi had stated in a speech before the 2014 elections that the RSS was responsible for Mahatma Gandhi's death. The exemption means that Gandhi will not have to attend court personally, although the court can ask him to attend if necessary during the proceedings.
The proceedings in the case have been ongoing before the judicial magistrate of Bhiwandi since 2014, and Gandhi had pleaded not guilty when he appeared before the magistrate in June 2018. In 2022, he applied for permanent exemption from attending court on the grounds that he is a Member of Parliament and has to attend to party work and visit his constituency.
However, Kunte opposed the exemption and brought up new facts, such as Gandhi's conviction by a Surat court in a defamation case, his sentence of imprisonment for two years, and his subsequent disqualification as an MP.
Advocate Narayan Iyyer, appearing for Gandhi, argued that his client had challenged the order passed by the Surat court and that the new developments cannot harm or disregard the exemption application that was already filed. After hearing all parties, judicial magistrate LC Wadikar allowed the permanent exemption application.
The magistrate will now begin recording evidence in the case from June 3, 2023.
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