A court in Mumbai on Saturday rejected applications of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury seeking dismissal of a defamation complaint filed against them by an RSS worker.
RSS activist and lawyer Dhrutiman Joshi has sought defamation proceedings against Mr Gandhi and Mr Yechury for allegedly linking the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
The two leaders will now face trial in the case. The court would be hearing the case next on January 6. Among other reasons, Mr Gandhi said it was wrong to club the cases against him and Mr Yechury.
Mr Gandhi, in his application filed through advocate Kushal Mor, stated that the court recorded "joint plea" of the Congress leader and Mr Yechury.
However, such a joint trial can be conducted only under section 233 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, whose provisions do not apply in the present case, the plea said.
Mr Yechury and he belong to two parties which have "very distinct" and even "opposite" ideologies, and the alleged statements being political statements, a joint trial was "likely to cause prejudice" to Mr Gandhi's defence, the application said.
Mr Yechury had moved an application stating a similar ground, seeking dismissal of the defamation complaint. Metropolitan Magistrate PI Mokashi rejected both the leaders' applications on Saturday.
In July, both Mr Gandhi and Mr Yechury pleaded "not guilty'' to the defamation charge, after which the judge granted them bail.
Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru in September 2017, allegedly by members of a right-wing extremist group.
Dhrutiman Joshi alleged that within 24 hours of her death, Mr Gandhi told reporters that "anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP, against the ideology of the RSS, is pressured, beaten, attacked and even killed."