Rahul a symbol of freedom; party would do whatever it takes to protect that symbol: Salman Khurshid

Khurshid said an attempt has been made to take away his house, but no one can take away his home as the country is his home

Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid
Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid


Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Lok Sabha has increased his popularity and stature, making him a symbol of freedom for the country's people, and the party would do whatever it takes to protect and defend that symbol, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said on Wednesday.

Khurshid, a noted lawyer, said the party will move the higher courts over Gandhi's conviction in a 2019 criminal defamation case by a Surat court and is hopeful of getting relief as the maximum sentence given in such a case "is unheard of".

"Never has the maximum sentence been given in a criminal defamation case. The maximum two-year sentence for criminal defamation is unheard of. We can hardly find cases where it was given, especially to an elected representative," he said, addressing a press conference at the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee office.

He said there is proportionality in the law and the maximum punishment is not given.

"We will also take this up in the appeal We have the right to appeal. We can go to the sessions court and if we are not satisfied there, we can go to the high court or even to the Supreme Court. We are hopeful we will get relief," he said.

The former Union minister said such cases are mostly not given priority in courts as there are too many cases pending there.

"It was surprising that this case was decided so quickly. Something was said in Kolar, Karnataka, a case was not registered there, but in Gujarat. Why? That is a big question? If the matter is outside the jurisdiction of the magistrate, then the magistrate has to inquire first whether the case can be heard there or not. This is another question and when there is an appeal, all these issues will come up. I am hopeful that the appeal will take place soon," he said.

Referring to the notice issued to Gandhi to vacate his official residence after his disqualification, Khurshid said an attempt has been made to take away his house, but no one can take away his home as the country is his home.

"He had said this in Kashmir (during the Bharat Jodo Yatra) that he feels his home is here. The country is his home, it is home for all of us. India is our home," the Congress leader said.

He, however, added that the situation in "our home (country)" is a matter of concern.

"We are pained with what is happening. We have to struggle to keep our home safe and one of the aspects of our home is the democracy here. When there is a war on democracy, we all are pained," he added.

Khurshid said Gandhi has said he will vacate the official residence within the time frame.

"But we do not want him to vacate the residence. There are cases when the same government has asked the occupants to continue living in the residence when they should have vacated them. There are reasons and they (the government) have the power. But this treatment to a senior-most leader of the biggest opposition party is not a good thing for the country," he said.

It is happening because Gandhi has vowed to keep the democratic system in the country clean and will seek answers from the government, Khurshid said.

"We are proud of him for this and it is our duty to fight for him. But, today, he has become a symbol of freedom, asking whether there is a freedom of expression in this country or not. And there are other things connected to that. So, he has become a symbol, and we will do whatever it takes to protect, defend and preserve that symbol," the former Union minister said.

"Gandhi's and the party's aim in this fight is to safeguard every aspect of the country's democracy. I hope the people of J-K will support us in this fight," Khurshid added.

Asked if Gandhi's disqualification and ban on contesting polls will affect the party, the senior Congress leader said being inside the Parliament or outside it, will not diminish Gandhi's leadership stature.

"In fact, the acts of the BJP government have increased his popularity and stature," Khurshid said.

Asked about the US statement over the issue, Khurshid said if the US government says they are keeping a watch on it, "then how can I change that".

"I cannot stop them. They (Modi government) say they (the US) are their friends, then they should talk to them and say the US should shut its eyes," he quipped.

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