New Delhi: The Supreme Court today observed that Rahul Gandhi, who blamed RSS for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, should not have resorted to "collective denunciation" of an organisation and will have to face trial in the defamation case against him if he does not express regret.
"We have held it may be historically correct but the fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can't make collective denunciation," a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman said.
The bench said that "freedom is not crippled or curbed. What is curbed is freedom of speech. What the writers, politicians, critics or antagonists say, you must have great magnitude to swallow."
The bench questioned the speech made by Rahul and wondered "why he made a speech quoting wrong historical fact".
The apex court said that they have applied their mind and Rahul Gandhi will have to face the trial in the case.
"What we have to see is the petitioner's allegations come under Section 499 (defamation) of IPC or not. Judgement is already there. You have to face trial, if you don't express regret," the bench said.
It also said "the purpose of law is not to convert people into litigants. Purpose of law is that people obey law. Peace and harmony should prevail rather than chaos."
Senior advocate Harin Raval, appearing for Rahul, said whatever was said in the speech was on the basis of government records and on the basis of decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court and he was not referring to RSS directly.
The bench after perusing the judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, said it only says that Nathuram Godse was an RSS worker and added that Godse killed Gandhi and RSS killed Gandhi are two different things.
"You have gone a way ahead and you can't make collective denunciation," it said.
Justice Misra said that "history is the greatest enemy of privacy. Over the years, attempts have been made to enter into the lives of historically eminent personalities to give a new dimension."
While quoting the recent order in a petition filed by DMDK leader and actor A Vijayakanth challenging the cases lodged against him and others in which the apex court has issued notice to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the bench said criticism of government is one thing and criticism of historical figure is another thing.