Rahul Gandhi on Thursday appeared before a Mumbai court in connection with a defamation case filed against him in 2017 for allegedly linking journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder with “BJP-RSS ideology”.

This comes a day after, Gandhi quit as the party president, while taking responsibility for the party’s decimation in the recent Lok Sabha elections.

Rahul Gandhi was accompanied by Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Milind Deora.

The Mazgaon metropolitan magistrate’s court, in February, issued summons to Rahul Gandhi and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury in response to a private complaint filed by Dhrutiman Joshi, a lawyer and worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS.

Joshi had filed the complaint in 2017 against Rahul Gandhi, the then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

A private complaint is filed to seek directions from the court to the police to investigate a particular matter.

Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017.

Joshi said that within 24 hours of her death, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that “anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP, against the ideology of the RSS, is pressured, beaten, attacked, and even killed.”

The complaint also said that Sitaram Yechury stated that it was the RSS’ ideology and RSS people who killed the journalist.

The court issued summons against Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury but dismissed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi and the CPI(M), saying a party cannot be held liable for comments made by individuals.

Meanwhile, a large number of Congress supporters have gathered outside the court.

Party activists were also seen at the Mumbai airport to welcome Gandhi.

The special investigation team probing the journalist-activist murder case has so far arrested 16 people while two are still at large.

The SIT has accused a gang of Right wing members, who were inspired by a book brought out by Sanatan Sanstha, for the murder.

The Supreme Court had in February this year ordered that the SIT should also investigate the murder of Left-leaning intellectual M M Kalburgi, who was killed in August, 2015.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is facing another defamation case at Bhiwandi in neighbouring Thane district, filed by a local RSS worker, for allegedly blaming the Sangh for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.