Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said defamation cases filed against him were attempted by his politcal rivals deperate to silence him. Gandhi, who appeared before a magisterial court here and pleaded not guilty in a criminal defamation case filed against him for his "why do all thieves share the modes of surname" remarks, made the charge in a tweet.

"I am in Surat today to appear in a defamation case filed against my political opponents, desperate to silence me" I am grateful for the love & support of the Congress workers who have expressed their solidarity with me, "Gandhi tweeted. BJP legislator from Surat-West, Purnesh Modi. He appeared before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate B H Kapadia here and pleaded not guilty when asked by the court.

After Gandhi's plea was recorded, his lawyers moved to application seeking a permanent exemption from personal appearance in the next hearings. The court said Gandhi is not required to remain present during the next hearing on that date.

Gandhi exemption from personal appearance for hearing and fixed October 10 as the next date of hearing. In his complaint, the BJP had all the Congress leader had defended the entire community with his remarks, made during the Lok Sabha campaign this year.

The court, while admitting the suit, had a prima facie case of criminal defamation against the Lok Sabha member from Wayanad. At a campaign rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, Gandhi had said, "Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi … how come all modes of common surname? How come all thieves have modes of common surname?"

In his complaint, Purnesh Modi had said the Congress leader had defeated the entire community with his statement. Gujarat Congress President Amit Chavda on Tuesday holding a meeting with local party leaders in view of Gandhi's visit.