A Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court in Surat has directed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to appear before it on October 29, to record his statement in connection with a criminal defamation case against him over his remark on the "Modi surname".

Chief Judicial Magistrate A N Dave has directed Gandhi to appear on October 29 to record his statement, after the testimony of two new witnesses were taken since the Congress leader last appeared before the Court on June 24 this year.

Prior to that, Rahul Gandhi had appeared before the Court in October 2019 and pleaded not guilty of the offences alleged.

BJP MLA from Surat, Purnesh Modi, had filed a complaint against Rahul Gandhi in April 2019, under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, alleging that Rahul Gandhi while addressing a poll rally in 2019, defamed the entire Modi community by saying "how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?"

Purnesh Modi is now a Minister in the Gujarat Government, holding the portfolios of Road and Building, Transport, Civil Aviation, and Tourism and Pilgrimage Development.

Since Gandhi's last appearance before the Court, testimonies of two witnesses have been recorded viz., the then Electoral Officer of Kolar in Karnataka where the Congress leader made the speech, and a video recorder employed by the Election Commission to record his speech.

In his speech at the rally in Kolar on April 13, 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the then Congress President Rahul Gandhi had reportedly asked, "Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi...how come they all have Modi as the common surname. How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?"

With PTI inputs