Surat- A court in Surat in Gujarat on Thursday sentenced Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him over his “Modi surname” remarks.
With the court’s verdict the Congress MP faces immediate disqualification from the Lok Sabha and will remain disqualified until he manages to get the conviction stayed by a higher court.
The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma, which held Gandhi guilty under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC, also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court, the Congress leader’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said.
Gandhi was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced.
The case was filed against Gandhi for his alleged “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname” remarks on a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh in a tweet today said that Rahul Gandhi was being punished for speaking the truth and raising his voice against the dictator.
“This is new India. If you raise your voice against injustice, then ED-CBI, Police, and FIR will be imposed on everyone. Rahul Gandhi is also getting punished for speaking the truth and raising his voice against the dictator”, tweeted Mr Ramesh.
Ramesh also added that the law of the country gives Rahul Gandhi an opportunity to appeal so he will exercise this right and that they’re not afraid.
Experts say Rahul Gandhi stands to be disqualified after the conviction in keeping with the Supreme Court’s order in the Lily Thomas case in 2013.
The Supreme Court ruled on July 10, 2013 that “any MP, MLA or MLC who is convicted of a crime and given a minimum of 2 years’ jail loses membership of the House with immediate effect for six years”. It struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction, as “unconstitutional”.
However, noted lawyer and Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the Surat court’s order is full of errors and legally unsustainable. He said an appeal would be filed very soon in a sessions court to seek a stay on the order and also its review.
Although the immediate reaction of BJP leaders was that “Rahul Gandhi should go to jail”, party national spokesperson and former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted it was a judicial process and that the law would take its course if Gandhi abuses people. He rejected the Congress criticism of his conviction and asked whether the Opposition party wants “complete freedom” for him to “abuse” others.
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