Rahul's plea for stay of conviction: Surat court to pronounce on April 20
Gandhi, who was the MP from Wayanad in Kerala, was disqualified as legislator following his conviction in defamation case over "Modi surname" remark
A sessions court on Thursday said it would pronounce on April 20 the order on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's plea for a stay to his conviction in the criminal defamation case over his "Modi surname" remark, made exactly four years ago during a poll rally.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Additional Sessions Judge R.P. Mogera said he would pronounce the order on April 20.
A metropolitan magistrate's court in Surat had on March 23 sentenced the Congress leader to two years in jail, after holding him guilty for his remark "how come all thieves have Modi as the common surname", made during an election rally in 2019.
Gandhi, who was disqualified as Member of Parliament from Wayanad after the conviction, filed an appeal before the sessions court here against the verdict. He also prayed for a stay to the conviction in the meantime.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Purnesh Modi, the complainant in the case, opposed Gandhi's plea for a stay in his reply, saying the Congress leader was a "repetitive [sic] offender".
On Thursday, Gandhi's lawyer senior advocate R.S. Cheema told sessions judge R.P. Mogera that the trial court need not have awarded the maximum punishment prescribed for the offence. The magistrate's judgement was "strange" as he "made a hotchpotch of all the evidence on record", Cheema argued.
"It was not a fair trial. The entire case was based on electronic evidence, wherein I made a speech during elections and a person sitting 100 km away filed a complaint after watching that in the news... There was no need for maximum punishment in this case," he said.
The complainant wrongly attached Gandhi's unconditional apology to the Supreme Court (in the Rafale-related contempt case) to this case, the lawyer said.
Purnesh Modi's lawyer Harshit Toliya said his client felt offended because Gandhi had tried to defame all people with the Modi surname.
"He was the president of the second largest party at the time of making the speech. His speech made a huge impact on the people of India and he also tried to sensationalise his speech," Toliya argued.
"In his speech, Rahul Gandhi spoke about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But he did not stop there and went beyond it. He said 'Saare choron ke naam Modi hi kyu hai? Dhoondho, aur bhi Modi milenge. [Why do all thieves have the Modi surname? If you search, you will find more Modis.]' My client was hurt by this part of the speech and thus the complaint," the lawyer added.
Gandhi also refused to apologise for his remarks, he pointed out.
Gandhi made the controversial "Modi surname" remark at a rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019, during the Lok Sabha elections campaign.
Referring to Gandhi's lawyer's argument about jurisdiction (as the speech had been made in Karnataka), Toliya said no objection was raised on this issue during the trial.
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