SURAT: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday appeared before a magistrate’s court in Surat city of Gujarat to record his statement in connection with a criminal defamation case filed against him over his remark on the “Modi surname”.

This was the third time the Congress MP appeared before the court in connection with the 2019 case.

The court had on October 26 directed Gandhi to appear before it between 3 pm and 6 pm on October 29 to record his statement.

The former Congress president landed at the Surat Airport in the afternoon and headed to the court, situated in the Athwalines area of the city.

Chief Judicial Magistrate A N Dave had earlier asked Gandhi to appear on October 29 to record his statement further, after the testimonies of two new witnesses were taken since the Congress leader last appeared before the court on June 24 this year.

Prior to it, the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala had appeared before the court in October 2019 and pleaded not guilty for his comment.

BJP legislator from Surat, Purnesh Modi, had filed a complaint against Gandhi in April 2019 under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 that deal with defamation.

In his complaint, the MLA had alleged that Gandhi, while addressing a poll rally in 2019, defamed the entire Modi community by purportedly saying “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” Purnesh Modi is now a minister in the Gujarat government led by new Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, holding the portfolios of road and building, transport, civil aviation, and tourism and pilgrimage development.

Since Gandhi’s last appearance before the court, testimonies were taken of two more witnesses — the then electoral officer of Kolar in Karnataka, where the Congress leader made the controversial remark, and a videographer employed by the Election Commission to record his speech.

In his address at the rally in Kolar on April 13, 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi had allegedly asked, “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. how come they all have Modi as the common surname.”