NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Supreme Court said on Friday that opposition leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, will have to face trial in a case involving the alleged misuse of party funds, but exempted them from appearing in court.
The two members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty had approached the top court to throw out the case which their Congress party says is a vendetta carried out by a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling group.
But the court said it saw no justification for interfering in the trial conducted by the lower court. However it granted them leave from attending regular hearings.
The Gandhis deny any wrongdoing.
Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are bitterly opposed to the Congress party, leading to a gridlock in parliament where key legislation such as simplifying state taxes is stuck.
The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty ruled India for most of its post-independence era after 1947 and helped shape the country's institutions. Detractors accuse the family of holding back economic development with socialist policies.
The legal case, brought by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy against the Gandhis, has further poisoned ties and there are no signs of compromise, political analysts say.
"The main prayer for which they (Gandhis) came has been defeated," Swamy told reporters after the Supreme Court decision.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the party welcomed the court's decision to exempt the Gandhis from appearing in court and would continue to fight Swamy's "false allegations".
Swamy has accused the Gandhis of cheating and criminal breach of trust by setting up a shell company to illegally gain control of properties worth $300 million that belonged to a company that published a newspaper founded by Rahul's great grandfather.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie)