Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, appearing before a magistrate in Gujarat's Surat today, denied making any defamatory comment on the "Modi surname".
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Surat, AN Dave, had directed Rahul Gandhi to record his statement in the lawsuit filed by a BJP MLA from Surat, Purnesh Modi, over his comments at a rally to campaign for the 2019 national election.
When the magistrate asked the Congress MP if he had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Rs 30 crore to an industrialist, Mr Gandhi replied that as a national leader, he usually raised issues of corruption and unemployment in the interest of the nation and it was his right to do so.
Asked on his reported comment that "all people with the Modi surname are thieves", Mr Gandhi claimed he had never spoken such words, according to news agency PTI. To most questions related to the evidence and statements of witnesses in the case, he reportedly said: "I don't know."
Judge Dave posted the next hearing on July 12.
Shortly before his court appearance, Mr Gandhi had tweeted: "The whole secret of existence is to have no fear."
“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 24, 2021
Purnesh Modi's complaint filed in April 2019 accuses the Congress MP of "defaming the entire Modi community" with his comments at a public meeting in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.
"Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi...how come they all have Modi as the common surname. How come all the thieves have Modi as a common surname," Mr Gandhi had reportedly said in Kolar.
He was Congress president at the time; he quit in May after his party's defeat in the Lok Sabha election.
Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi are fugitives who fled India while being investigated over loan fraud and financial irregularities.
Mr Gandhi had in October 2019 pleaded "not guilty" in this case. The Congress has called it a "false defamation case".