Modi surname case: Congress set to approach Supreme Court against Rahul Gandhi conviction

The Congress party has said that they will approach the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court refused to stay the conviction on former Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case

Abhishek Manu Singhvi with Jairam Ramesh at AICC press conference (Photo: Vipin/National Herald)
Abhishek Manu Singhvi with Jairam Ramesh at AICC press conference (Photo: Vipin/National Herald)

Ashlin Mathew

The Congress, on Friday, July 7, said the party will approach the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court refused to stay the conviction of former Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case.

The party said the refusal was “disappointing but expected” and underscored that the defamation law has been misused in this case. The refusal to stay the conviction implies that he will not be reinstated as Member of Parliament.

Addressing a press conference Congress leader and senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi highlighted that this was done with “malice”. “This is an attempt to strangle democracy through vendetta politics. But, nothing is bigger than the “janta” court. We will go to the people,” said Singhvi, and added that the verdict was delivered after 66 days.

“The jurisprudence in this judgment is unique and extraordinary. It has no precedent in the jurisprudence of the defamation law. The maximum sentence is two years and Rahul Gandhi has been given that. Did the court ask the question how the petitioner was defamed," asked Singhvi.

Singhvi pointed out that the judgement mentions that “Rahul Gandhi has at least two to three cases filed against him for his utterances on Veer Savarkar”. However, highlighted Singhvi, the defamation case was filed by Savarkar’s grand nephew Satyaki Savarkar on April 15.

“The judgement in Rahul Gandhi’s case came on 23 March 2023, so how can a case that was filed after the verdict was announced be included in this judgement. That proves something,” said Singhvi.

In the judgement, Justice Hemant Prachchhak observed that “the applicant is trying to seek stay of his conviction on absolutely non-existent grounds. It is well-settled principle of law that stay of conviction is not a rule but an exception to be resorted to in rare cases”.

“Disqualification is not limited only to MPs/MLAs. Moreover, as many as ten criminal cases are pending against the applicant. It is now need of the hour to have purity in politics. Representatives of people should be man of clear antecedent. It also appears from the record that after filing of the said complaint, another complaints came to be filed against the present accused, out of which, one complaint was filed by the grandson of Vir Sawarkar in concerned Court of Puna when the accused used defamation utterances against Vir Sawarkar at Cambridge and another complaint was also filed in concerned Court of Lucknow,” reads the judgement.

The HC judge added that in the “backdrop of the said circumstances, the refusal to stay the conviction would not, in any way, result in injustice to the applicant”.

On March 23, a metropolitan magistrate's court in Surat had sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation) in a 2019 defamation case filed by BJP Gujarat MLA Purnesh Modi.

It was filed over a remark Gandhi made during the 2019 election campaigning in Karnataka where he referred to the likes of Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi, and questioned "why (do) all thieves have the same surname?"

Purnesh Modi alleged that this remark has defamed the entire Modi community, but Gandhi has maintained that there was no malafide intention on his part when he made the statement.

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