Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday pleaded not guilty in the defamation case filed against him for his alleged "all thieves share the Modi surname" remark and sought exemption from personal appearance in the case.
Gandhi appeared before a Surat magisterial court today to defend himself in the defamation case. After pleading not guilty, Gandhi, through his counsel moved an application seeking exemption from personal appearance in the court.
The counsel of the claimant objected to the plea and sought time to file a reply on it, following which the court slated the matter for December 10.
BJP legislator Purnesh Modi had filed a complaint against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for making the impugned remarks during the Lok Sabha elections campaign, earlier this year.
Speaking to media persons after the proceedings, Purnesh Modi said, "Modi is a name, surname and a society. Crores of people are connected to it. After Gandhi said the things to defame the people, we had to file a complaint against him."
Advocate Hasmukh Lalwala, representing Gandhi in the matter, also asserted that if his client is found guilty, he can be imprisoned for two years and fined.
A large number of Congress workers had assembled outside the court premises and showered petals on Gandhi's vehicle as he entered the court's premises.
After leaving the court, Gandhi tweeted and thanked his party workers for expressing solidarity with him.
"I am in Surat today to appear in a defamation case filed against me by my political opponents, desperate to silence me. I am grateful for the love and support of the Congress workers who have gathered here to express their solidarity with me," Gandhi stated in the tweet.
His party colleague Shaktisinh Gohil defended Gandhi and said that the party in power should tolerate criticism by the opposition.
Senior party leader Ahmed Patel also backed Gandhi and said, "Let the law takes its own course."
( With inputs from ANI )