Indian court rejects Rahul Gandhi’s plea to suspend defamation conviction

indian-court-rejects-rahul-gandhi’s-plea-to-suspend-defamation-conviction
Indian court rejects Rahul Gandhi’s plea to suspend defamation conviction

A defamation case against opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has been rejected by a high court in western India. This means that Gandhi’s conviction will not be suspended, and he will not be able to return to parliament or contest the national elections next year. However, Gandhi still has the option to take his appeal to a larger bench of the same high court and then to the Supreme Court.

Gandhi was convicted in March after making comments in 2019 that were deemed insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others with the surname Modi. He had asked, “How come all thieves have the name Modi?” during an election campaign speech, referring to two fugitive businessmen. Although Gandhi was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, the jail term was put on hold and he was granted bail.

As a result of his conviction, Gandhi also lost his parliamentary seat, as lawmakers sentenced to jail terms of two years or more are automatically disqualified. Additionally, they are barred from running for election for six years after completing their jail term. Gandhi has challenged the conviction separately in a district court, but the case has yet to be heard.

Justice Hemant Prachchhak of the Gujarat High Court, in his order on Friday, stated that a stay of conviction is not a common practice and should only be resorted to in rare cases. He further added that refusing to stay the conviction would not result in injustice to Gandhi, as there are no reasonable grounds to do so based on the facts and circumstances of the case. Gandhi has not yet responded to the verdict.

Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh commented that the judgment would be studied, and he tweeted that it only strengthens their determination to pursue the matter further. During the case hearing, Gandhi’s lawyer argued that the crime for which Gandhi was convicted is not serious and that being barred from contesting elections for eight years is essentially a semi-permanent exclusion from politics.

Gandhi is only the second lawmaker in India to be disqualified from parliament due to a conviction. The other case occurred in January of this year, but the lawmaker was later reinstated. Gandhi’s disqualification has prompted India’s main opposition parties to set aside their differences and unite in planning a challenge to the BJP in the 2024 national elections.

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