A court here yesterday granted bail to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on a personal bond of Rs15,000 in connection with a defamation case filed by an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury also appeared before the same court in the same matter and pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges levelled against him, lawyer Chandrakant Bojgar said.
He was also granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 15,000 and permanent exemption from appearing before the court, Bojgar added.
Sewree Court metropolitan magistrate P I Mokashi also granted permanent exemption to Rahul from appearing before the court.
The surety amount was provided by former Mumbai MP Eknath Gaikwad who accompanied him to the hearing.
The matter has been posted for further hearing on September 21, said Kushal Mor, one of the lawyers representing the Congress leader.
Earlier, during the course of the short hearing, Rahul pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges levelled against him by RSS worker and lawyer Dhrutiman Joshi who accused both Rahul and Yechury of linking the right-wing organisation with the murder of Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017.
In his plea filed in 2017, Joshi had contended that barely 24 hours after the Lankesh killing, Rahul had posted tweets allegedly blaming the RSS and its ideology for the journalist’s murder.
“For a mere political score, the accused (Rahul) had unnecessarily dragged the name of the RSS and it is a move to rake up negative sentiments in the minds of people against the RSS,” Joshi’s complaint said.
He added that statements made by the accused and their respective political parties are in utmost sense defamatory and belittle the RSS in the public’s eye, which was a move by the accused to tarnish the image of the RSS without any proof.
Rahul returned to New Delhi shortly thereafter.
This is the second petition filed by an RSS activist in Maharashtra against Rahul.
In 2014, its functionary, Rajesh Kunte had filed a plea against him for allegedly blaming the RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The case is pending before a Bhiwandi court in adjoining Thane.
A large number of Congress activists led by Deora, former city chief Sanjay Nirupam, deputy leader of Congress in the Assembly, Naseem Khan, and other leaders welcomed Rahul at the Mumbai Airport on his first visit to the city a day after he quit as party president.
Thousands more lined up enroute and outside the court in Mazagaon waving party flags and raising slogans, asking him to take back his resignation as Congress chief.
Earlier speaking to media, unmindful of the rain, he said: “I am with the poor and the farmers.”
“My fight will continue. I will fight 10 time more than I did in the past five years,” Rahul asserted, indicating an aggressive stance in the future.
Meanwhile reacting to Rahul’s decision to step down as leader of the Congress party, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted: “Few have the courage that you do”.
“Few have the courage that you do @rahulgandhi. Deepest respect for your decision,” tweeted Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, and re-tweeted her brother’s post.