The Supreme Court on August 4 stayed the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a 2019 defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark, restoring his status as an MP.
A three-judge bench of Justices B.R. Gavai, P.S. Narasimha, and Sanjay Kumar said there was no doubt that the utterances were not in good taste and that a person in public life is expected to exercise caution while making public speeches. “No reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence, the order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication,” the bench said.
In 2019, former Gujarat Minister Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case against Rahul Gandhi over his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remark made during an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka in April 2019. On March 23, a trial court in Gujarat convicted the Congress leader on grounds of criminal defamation and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment, which subsequently led to his disqualification as a Member of Parliament.
The top court was hearing a plea by Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court order, which had upheld the lower court’s verdict and dismissed his plea seeking a stay on his conviction.
Rahul Gandhi to attend no confidence proceedings?
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, urged the Chair to allow Rahul Gandhi to attend the House after the Supreme Court ruling.
“We have met the Lok Sabha Speaker and have urged him to restore Gandhi’s membership in Lok Sabha after the Supreme Court has granted him relief. We want that Rahul Gandhi should speak on the ‘no-confidence motion’ against the government in the Lok Sabha,” he said.
Chowdhury also said that “we fear the government may create hurdles and have urged the speaker not to delay the revocation of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification”.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hailed the Supreme Court ruling staying the conviction of Rahul Gandhi and cited a quote by Gautam Buddha in a tweet, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin praised the Supreme Court’s decision. He wrote on Twitter, “Justice prevails! #Wayanad retains #RahulGandhi! Welcome the Hon’ble #SupremeCourt’s decision staying the conviction of dear brother Thiru @RahulGandhi in the criminal defamation case. This decision re-affirms our belief in the strength of our judiciary and the importance of safeguarding democratic values. #INDIA”
K.C. Venugopal, Congress MP from Rajasthan said, “Justice has prevailed. No force can silence the voice of the people.”
Mehbooba Mufti, the President of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party tweeted, “I welcome the Supreme Court verdict staying Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a case that had no legs to stand upon. Glad that he will be back in Parliament fighting for the idea of India.”
Rajya Sabha MP and former Union Minister P. Chidambaram said, “The Supreme Court’s order today is a vindication of the argument that we have consistently pressed before every court—from the trial court to the Supreme Court. We maintain that the case was manufactured with the sole intention of keeping Mr Rahul Gandhi from Parliament.”
(with inputs from PTI)