NEW DELHI— The Supreme Court granted a stay on the conviction of former Congress President Rahul Gandhi in the ‘Modi surname’ defamation case, which led to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
The court pointed out that the trial judge had not provided any reasons for imposing the maximum punishment of two years in the case.
he bench, comprising Justices B.R. Gavai, P.S. Narasimha, and Prashant Kumar Mishra, observed during the hearing that the absence of representation in Parliament due to the conviction could be a relevant ground for suspension. The court highlighted that had Rahul Gandhi been sentenced to one year, 11 months, and 29 days, he would not have faced disqualification as a Member of Parliament.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the complainant BJP MLA in the defamation case, contended that Gandhi’s intention was to defame every person with the surname ‘Modi’ solely because it matched that of the Prime Minister. He asserted that Gandhi had defamed an entire class out of malice. He also referred to the Supreme Court’s admonition of Gandhi in 2019 during contempt proceedings over his remarks on the Rafale case.
The Supreme Court heard the plea filed by Rahul Gandhi against the Gujarat High Court’s decision to refuse a stay on his conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ defamation case.
On July 15, Rahul Gandhi approached the Supreme Court to challenge the Gujarat High Court’s order, where a bench of Justice Hemant Prachchhak had remarked that granting a stay on his conviction would be an exception, not the rule.
In March, Gandhi was disqualified as a Member of Parliament after a Surat court convicted him and sentenced him to two years in prison for his remark during an election rally in Karnataka in April 2019, “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname.” His statement was perceived as an implied connection between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.
Earlier, the sessions court in Surat had rejected Gandhi’s plea seeking suspension of his conviction by the magistrate court, stating that his disqualification would not result in an irreversible loss to him. The Congress leader faced disqualification under a rule that bars convicted MPs from holding Lok Sabha membership.
Legal experts suggest that with the Supreme Court granting a stay on Rahul Gandhi’s conviction, his Lok Sabha membership is likely to be restored.