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SC Stays Rahul Gandhi’s Conviction in ‘Modi Surname’ Case; MP Status to be Restored

‘Victory of love against hate’ says Cong; all eyes on reinstatment as MP; will it go Mohd Fazal way?
Rahul gandhi

Image Courtesy: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case related to the use of ‘Modi surname’ in one of his remarks. The Gujarat High Court had refused to stay his conviction, after which Gandhi had moved the apex court.

The SC stay paves the way for Gandhi’s reinstatement as Member of Parliament and contesting elections, but it remains to be seen if it goes the same way as the case of Lakshadweep MP, Mohd Fazal of the Nationalist Congress Party, who had to approach the top court when the Lok Sabha Secretariat did not reinstate him two months after the Kerala High Court’s order clearing him of conviction in an attempt to murder case. It was hours before the hearing that the Lok Sabha Secretariat reinstated him on March 30 this year.

On Friday, three-judge bench of Justices B R Gavai, P S Narasimha and Sanjay Kumar said no doubt that the utterances made by the Congress leader were not in “good taste” but added that "no reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence, the order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication," the bench said.

Staying the conviction, the top court also said: “The ramifications of disqualification not just affect the right of the individual but also the electorate.”

This was Rahul Gandhi's last chance to get acquittal in order to attend Parliament and contest elections, his lawyer argued in the court, adding that the Gujarat HC had reserved its judgement for 66 days, and due to conviction in the case, Gandhi had already “lost two Parliament sessions.”

Former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case in 2019 against Gandhi over his "How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?" remark made during an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.

Representing Gandhi, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, said the trial had been completed, and Gandhi has even been convicted, yet there was no evidence so far.

According to NDTV, he said this is the first time 30 crore people have been held to be an identifiable class. "They are amorphous, non-homogenous...communities, castes, and groups with the appellation 'Modi' are totally different," he said.

"Not a single material of moral turpitude. Not a single judgement. This is non-cognisable, bailable, and compoundable. Not against society, not kidnapping, rape, murder...maximum sentence of 2 yrs...How can this become an offence involving moral turpitude?" Singhvi said, adding that there's “no other case where two years sentence has been given”.

Pronouncing the verdict, Justice BR Gavai  said: “No reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence, the order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication."

 (with inputs from PTI)

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