NEWDELHI, 12th June: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on pleaded "not guilty" in a Bhiwandi court on Tuesday in connection with a defamation case filed against him by an RSS worker in 2014.
The Congress president's plea came after the court framed charges against him and read them out in the courtroom after he took the stand. The court has set August 10 as next date of hearing. The case was filed against Rahul after he said - at a rally in Bhiwandi in 2014 - that the RSS was involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
"Let the BJP and RSS slap as many cases as they want against me, we will fight them and win," said the Congress president to the media upon exiting the courtroom.
"(The complainant) says you defamed complainant's organisation, that is RSS. Reputation of complainant and organisation was harmed ... Have you received copies (of this)?" said the judge, to which Rahul replied in the affirmative.
Last month, Bhiwandi court asked the Congress president to appear before it on June 12 to record his plea. At that time, the court heard arguments on Rahul's application and sought a detailed recording of evidence instead of a 'summary trial'.
While the trial in such cases is normally held summarily, Rahul filed an application in April seeking that it be a 'summons trial'.
"A summary trial is short and will be completed with just submitting the written arguments.
We have sought for a summons trial which would go into the in-depth recording of the evidence," said Rahul's lawyer at the time.
Rahul had earlier moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the case. The apex court however said in July 2016 said the Congress president should not have resorted to "collective denunciation" of an organisation and would have to face trial if he did not express regret for his remark.
The Congress president declined to accept the top court's suggestion and expressed willingness to face the trial.