Published On: Fri, Jul 7th, 2023

Gujarat HC dismisses Rahul Gandhi’s plea in ‘Modi surname’ defamation case’

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday refused to stay on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ defamation case.

The lower court sentenced the Congress leader to two years in jail

The bench of Justice Hemant M Prachchhak said that the trial court conviction order is proper. “There is no need to interfere with the said order. Therefore, the application is dismissed,” he said.

The court dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s plea and noted that at least 10 criminal cases were pending against him and even after the present case, some more cases have been filed against him. One such case has been filed by the grandson of Veer Savarkar, the court said. Earlier in May this year, Gujarat HC reserved its order on Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 ‘Modi surname’ defamation case.

Rahul Gandhi had moved the Gujarat High Court on April 25 challenging the Surat sessions court order which declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case. During the hearing on April 29, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, had sought time to produce certain documents on record after which the court adjourned the hearing to May 2.

The Surat sessions court had on April 20 rejected Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the criminal defamation case. In his judgement, Additional Sessions Judge Robin P Mogera cited Rahul Gandhi’s stature as an MP and former chief of the country’s second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful.

He cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname with thieves. Judge Mogera said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. “…the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life. Such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society,” he said.

He cited the disqualification criteria under the Representation of the People Act and added that removal or disqualification as MP could not be termed irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to Gandhi. Following his conviction by a lower court in the criminal defamation case, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as Lok Sabha MP. He had been elected to Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala.

The lower court sentenced the Congress leader to two years in jail on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case filed by Purnesh Modi. At a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar in April 2019, Rahul Gandhi, in a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”. Following the session’s court verdict, Congress had said it will move the Gujarat High Court.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Friday said it would move an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat High Court order dismissing party leader Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal said, “There is one more option before us… The Supreme Court. Let’s see. The Congress party will seek that option too”.

Venugopal said this while addressing a party programme organised in Kozhikode district of northern Kerala. His statement came soon after the Gujarat High Court dismissed Gandhi’s plea, upholding the order of the lower court, describing it as “just, proper and legal”. A stay of the conviction would have paved the way for Gandhi’s reinstatement as a Member of Parliament.


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