New Delhi, Oct 18: The Supreme Court Thursday gave a clean chit to Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, saying that the 2006 allegation of gangrape against him and his friends was fake and ordered Rs.5 lakh compensation for damage to his reputation.
An apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar held that the allegation seemed to be a case of “political rivalry”, and was “without substance and not even an iota of evidence” was there to support it.
“It is a matter of regret that the process of the court has been abused by unscrupulous litigants just to attain publicity and adversely affect the reputation of another politician (Rahul Gandhi),” the apex court said.
The allegation had “damaged the public image of Rahul Gandhi”, the court said.
The court imposed a cost of Rs.5 lakh on petitioner and former Samajwadi Party legislator from Madhya Pradesh Kishore Samrite. The money would go to Gandhi as compensation for damage to his reputation.
The petition was “based upon falsehood, was abuse of the process of the court and was driven by malice and political vendetta. Thus, while dismissing this petition, we impose exemplary cost of Rs.5 lakh upon the next friend (Samrite), cost being payable to respondent No. 6 (Rahul Gandhi).”
Gandhi’s party hailed the verdict. Congress media department chairman Janardan Dwivedi said “baseless, cheap allegations” were being made which were “dangerous for democracy”.
The apex court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to continue its investigation against Samrite and others “responsible for the abuse of the process of court, making false statement in pleadings, filing false affidavits and committing such other offences as the investigating agency may find during investigation”.
It sought a report from the probe agency in six months.
The apex court said Samrite, who had petitioned the Allahabad High Court in 2011, “did not approach the high court with clean hands”.
Samrite, on the basis of a website report which alleged that Dec 3, 2006, Gandhi and his six friends who were in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh had wrongfully confined a girl and raped her, moved a habeas corpus petition in the high court.
Justice Swatanter Kumar said that Gandhi “rightly contended that the website’s information was nothing but secondary evidence,…(and) not even an iota of evidence has been placed on record” of the high court and the apex court “which could even show the remote possibility of happening of the alleged rape incident on Dec 3, 2006″.
Referring to Gandhi’s contention that it was a case of “political mudslinging”, the court said: “One of the obvious reasons which can reasonably be inferred from the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case is the political rivalry.”
Samrite moved a habeas corpus petition in the Allahabad High Court in 2011 seeking that the alleged victim of the gangrape be brought before court.
He said his plea was based on the information he got from a website which alleged Dec 3, 2006, that when Gandhi was on a visit to his parliamentary constituency Amethi, he along with his six friends illegally detained the victim and raped her.
A separate petition was filed over the issue in the high court by Gajendra Pal Singh, alleging that Samrite’s petition was based on wild allegations. He sought the victim and her family be presented before the court.
The high court in its March 7, 2011, order imposed a cost of Rs.50 lakh on Samrite out of which Rs.25 lakh was to be paid to the victim girl, Rs.20 lakh to Gandhi and Rs.5 lakh to the Uttar Pradesh police chief. The high court also directed a CBI probe against Samrite.
The apex court has now imposed a cost of Rs.5 lakh each on Samrite and Gajendra Pal Singh.
The court said the money to be paid by Gajendra Pal Singh would be paid to a three-member family which was presented by police in the high court following his plea. Police had told the high court that they could only trace this family – whose head of the family shared the name with the father of the victim alleged to have been raped by Gandhi.
The apex court said Gajendra Pal Singh also did not approach the high court with clean hands.
Holding that the high court had deprived Samrite of an opportunity to be heard, the apex court said that since all the parties were adequately heard by it, the defects stands cured.
Referring to the Rs.50 lakh cost slapped on Samrite by the high court, the apex court said: “The imposition of such heavy costs upon the petitioner was not called for in the facts and circumstances of the case as the court was not dealing with a suit for damages but with a petition for habeas corpus, even if the petition was not bona fide.”
The apex court also disagreed with the high court’s decision of paying a reward to state police chief for the probe into the case.