SC seeks Rahul’s explanation on ‘chowkidar’ comment

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that the “chowkidar chor hai” comment made by Rahul Gandhi in the context of Rafale fighter jet issue had been “incorrectly attributed” to it and demanded an explanation from the Congress President by April 22.

A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna posted the matter for hearing on April 23.

“We make it clear that this Court had no occasion to record any view or finding or make any observation as allegedly attributed to the Court by the respondent (Rahul Gandhi) inasmuch as what was decided by this Court was a purely legal question of admissibility of certain documents to which objections were raised by the learned Attorney General,” CJI Gogoi said in the order.

“Having clarified the matter, we deem it proper to ask the respondent (Gandhi) for his explanation which will be laid before us on or before 22.04.2019.

“We further observe that no views, observations or findings should be attributed to the Court in political address to the media and in public speeches, unless such views, observations or findings are recorded by the Court,” the court said in its order uploaded on its website in the evening.

The Supreme Court’s directive came on a contempt plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi against Gandhi, who had said over a week back that the top court had “accepted” that there was some form of corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and that “chowkidar chor hai”, a veiled reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gandhi had made the comments after the Supreme Court agreed to hear afresh a case related to the Rafale deal, rejecting the government’s contention that the secret documents concerning the agreement had been stolen and published in some newspapers without authorization.

The top court on Monday clarified that its decision on April 10 to hear the points raised over the documents was solely on a legal question regarding admissibility of certain documents as evidence, which was objected by the Attorney General.

It clarified that it’s recent order “had no occasion” which might have indicated to Gandhi to make any such comments.

On April 10, the Supreme Court had said the petitions filed by former Union Ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, along with activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, seeking review of its December 14 judgment in the Rafale matter, would be heard on merits and that it would look into the documents published.

After Gandhi’s comments, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had attacked him and said he was on the “verge” of contempt of court by claiming that the top court had said “chowkidar chor hai”.