It was a relief for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on April 3. The Surat sessions court on April 3 granted bail to him, till disposal of his appeal, in the defamation case over his remark “why all thieves share the Modi surname”. The sessions court also issued notice to the complainant on Gandhi’s plea for a stay on his conviction. Gandhi, who was sentenced to two years in prison in a criminal defamation case will now have to wait till April 13 when the sessions court in Surat hears his appeal against conviction in the case on April 13.
The former president of Congress personally arrived in Surat to file the appeal in sessions court against a lower court’s order that found him guilty of criminal defamation. It may be noted that on March 23, a lower court in Surat found him guilty of defaming the entire Modi community in a case filed by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi. Gandhi was given the maximum two-year jail term for his offence, but the sentence was suspended for 30 days for him to file an appeal against the order. However, he also faces another deadline to vacate his official residence in New Delhi, which was allotted to him as an MP, by April 22.
The former Congress president was subsequently disqualified from the Lok Sabha under a rule that bars convicted MPs from holding Lok Sabha membership. If the conviction is not overturned, Gandhi will be disqualified from contesting elections for the next eight years. However, according to legal experts, a stay on Gandhi’s conviction in the case would be sufficient to restore his Lok Sabha membership. According to the Supreme Court judgment in the Lily Thomas case, a stay on the conviction is sufficient and if the sessions court stays Gandhi’s conviction, then the Lok Sabha secretariat could restore Gandhi’s membership.
But if the sessions court stays his conviction in the defamation case, it will pave the way for the restoration of his Lok Sabha membership. So a stay on conviction is a must. Gandhi’s conviction has not been stayed by the sessions court, however, a notice has been issued to the complainant on Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction. All eyes are now on what the sessions court decides on April 13. Once his conviction is stayed, then the Lok Sabha secretariat can restore his membership.
The legal trouble for Gandhi stemmed from a remark he made in April 2019 while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka’s Kolar. During his campaign, Gandhi stated that “all thieves have Modi surname”, equating Prime Minister Narendra Modi with fugitives like Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi. On March 23, a lower court in Surat found him guilty of defaming the entire Modi community in a case filed by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi. Gandhi was subsequently disqualified from the Lok Sabha under a rule that bars convicted MPs from holding Lok Sabha membership.
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