'Modi surname' defamation case: A defamation case was filed against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over a remark he made ahead of 2019 parliamentary polls. As he was convicted on Thursday, here's a look at what happens next. Will Gandhi lose his MP status?
A district court in Gujarat's Surat convicted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him over his 'Modi surname' remark. According to News 18, the court sentenced Gandhi to two-year imprisonment as quantum of punishment. He, however, received bail for appeal at a higher court, which has to be done in 30 days.
Advocate Ketan Reshamwala, appearing for Purnesh Modi, was quoted by ANI as saying, "Rahul Gandhi has been convicted under Section 499 and 500 of IPC (Indian Penal Code). The sentence awarded is for two years and against that sentence, he has plead that he may be released on bail till appeal period and as per law, the court has granted him bail for 30 days. Until the appeal, the sentence is suspended by the court."
What is 'Modi surname defamation case?
The defamation case was filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi after Gandhi had said: "How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?" Gandhi made the remarks while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In his address, Gandhi had linked Prime Minister Narendra Modi with fugitives Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.
The complainant claimed that the remark defamed the entire Modi community. However, Rahul Gandhi maintained that no one was harmed by his statement and that he had made the remark as a politician, Aajtak reported on Thursday.
The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma had last week concluded hearing final arguments from both sides and set March 23 to pronounce its judgment in the four-year-old defamation case.
Gandhi had last appeared before the Surat court in the case, filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (dealing with defamation), in October 2021 to record his statement.
What happens next? Will Gandhi lose his MP status?
Rahul Gandhi, who was granted bail soon after being convicted in the "Modi surname" case, now has 30 days to approach a higher court against the Surat court's decision.
However, the Congress might lose his membership as a Member of Parliament (MP) and Wayanad may witness see a by-poll, News 18 reported.
Sources from the Lok Sabha Speaker’s office told The Indian Express if a complaint for disqualification comes to the table along with the order, it will be examined by legal experts and a decision will be made accordingly.
A lawmaker can be disqualified if he/she is convicted for offence — other than promoting enmity between two groups, bribery and undue influence or personation at an election — but is sentenced for a period of two years or more.
The Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 mandates that an MP can be disqualified if convicted and sentenced to not less than two years of imprisonment.
Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said Rahul Gandhi faces immediate disqualification as MP now.
"In Lily Thomas vs Union of India judgement of 10 July 2013, Supreme Court of India ruled 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'," he said in a series of tweets.
The Supreme Court had also struck down Section 8(4) of Representation of the People Act which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction, calling it 'unconstitutional'.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress leaders react
In his first reaction after the Surat court verdict, Rahul Gandhi tweeted a Mahatma Gandhi quote: "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it."
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said her brother, Rahul Gandhi, "has never been afraid, nor will he ever be".
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said Rahul Gandhi is a courageous man and only he can compete with the NDA government.
Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said, "There is an attempt to suppress the media. There is an attempt to influence the judiciary and they are taking action against the people of different political parties at this level."
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge also reacted saying: "He (Rahul Gandhi) has been granted bail. We knew from the beginning because they kept changing judges. We believe in law, judiciary and we will fight against this as per law."
BJP leader RS Prasad hit out the Congress saying that the law of India is that if an individual or an organisation has been defamed, then he has got the right to seek file a case, but Congress has an objection to it. "They want complete freedom for Rahul Gandhi to utter abuses," he said.
(Edited by : Pradeep John)
First Published: Mar 23, 2023 11:28 AM IST
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