Ahmedabad, Jul 12: Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday appeared in a metro court here in connection with a defamation case regarding alleged large-scale deposits of scrapped Rs 500 and 1,000 notes in Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank post-demonetisation.
He was granted bail and September 7 was set as the next date of hearing in the suit filed by ADCB Chairman Ajay Patel in August last year.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala is also an accused in the case which has assumed strident political overtones.
The case related to Mr Gandhi's remark, statements and social media posts about the alleged large-scale deposit of scrapped Rs 500 and 1000 notes in ADCB, of which Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah was a director, during just five days after the November 8, 2016 announcement of demonetisation.
The Nehru-Gandhi family scion arrived here at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport at 1230 pm and appeared in the Court No 13 of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Ms Nirali B Munshi, situated on the sixth floor in the Metro Court in Ghee Kanta area of the city. He pleaded not guilty and averred that the allegations leveled against him were not correct.
S V Raju, advocate of the plaintiff, submitted that the Congress leader could not be allowed to move out of the court without applying for bail and getting it.
Bail was granted on furnishing a bond of Rs 15000/- and a personal surety of an equal amount. Babu Mangukiya, Congress leader and member of the team of advocates for Mr Gandhi, said that no application for exemption from personal appearance was given today. He also claimed that the objection of the complainant's counsel regarding bail issue was not necessary. 'Rahul Ji appeared in the wake of summons and it was not required that he should have been forced to take bail. It is perhaps the first such incident in the legal history of Gujarat but we don't want to get into any controversy about it,' he added.
The complainant, Mr Ajay Patel, was not present in the court today.
Mr Gandhi had to spend around 30 minutes inside the jam-packed court-room in which there were several senior party leaders, including INC treasurer, Ahmed Patel.
A statement from Mr Gandhi's office said that he will neither be intimidated nor silenced and will vigorously defend himself in each of the more than 20 cases filed against him in various courts around India by Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh/Bharatiya Janata Party workers.
The court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had earlier examined the witnesses and observed that prima facie it appears to be a case of defamation.
On August 27 last year, the judge ordered an inquiry under section 202 of the CrPC in the matter before proceeding further on the complaint lodged in the court by ADC bank chairman Ajay Patel on the same day. Mr Patel with his complaint had also attached the copy of a CD and transcripts of the statements and tweets of the accused.
In June last year, Mr Surjewala had, during a news conference alleged that ADCB, one of the 370 district cooperative banks of the nation, received the highest amount of old demonetised notes, worth Rs 745.58 crore, in just five days after the ban was announced on November 8, 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
''ADCB chairman Ajay Patel is a prominent BJP leader, a close associate of Amit Shah. Five days after demonetisation, all cooperative banks were banned from accepting demonetised notes with the pretence of preventing money laundering through them,'' Mr Surjewala had said. He had also alleged that in 11 district cooperative banks in Gujarat headed by BJP leaders, including those in Ahmedabad and Rajkot, Rs 3,118.51 crore worth of old notes were deposited within five days of the purge.
On June 22, 2018, Mr Gandhi had tweeted, ''Congratulations Amit Shah ji , Director, Ahmedabad Dist. Cooperative Bank, on your bank winning 1st prize in the conversion of old notes to new race. 750 Cr in 5 days! Millions of Indians whose lives were destroyed by demonetisation, salute your achievement.''
Mr Patel, in his complaint, had alleged that the falsehoods spread by Congress leaders had affected the image of the bank and they were liable to action under defamation laws.
Two other defamation cases against Mr Gandhi are also being heard by other courts in Gujarat. In the one pertaining to his speech in an election rally in Jabalpur calling Mr Amit Shah, a murder-accused, another metro court here had on last Tuesday re-issued summon to him ordering him to appear before it on August 9, Friday. The case was filed by a local BJP corporator.
Another defamation case against the Congress leader, was filed by ex-BJP MLA Purnesh Modi in Surat for his remarks in an election rally in South India in which he had allegedly said that 'Sabhi Modi Chor hain' (All Modis are thieves). A court in the South Gujarat city had three days ago issued summons calling him to appear before it on July 16, Tuesday.
Mr Gandhi gave his Circuit House lunch a miss for traditional Gujarati food at a private restaurant in the plush Law Garden area of the city.
Accompanied by party stalwarts including treasurer Ahmed Patel, GPCC president Amit Chavda, Leader of the Opposition in Gujarat Assembly Paresh Dhanani, Mr Gandhi, on his way to from the Circuit House to the metro court for hearing in the case, stopped over at a private restaurant for an authentic Gujarati food.
During Assembly election campaign in Gujarat in 2017, he had dined at the restaurant and relished street food, besides traditional snacks and sweets.
Deputy leader of the Congress legislature party Shailesh Parmar said that after appearance in the court, Mr Gandhi would also confer with party MLAs in the circuit house. (UNI)