Bharat Express

Gujarat: Court Decision On Rahul’s Plea For Stay On Conviction In Defamation Case Is Expected Soon

Gandhi had submitted that the trial court treated him harshly after being overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi Attacks PM Modi

A sessions court in Gujarat’s Surat city is likely to pronounce its order on Thursday on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s plea for a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark.

A stay order could pave the way for Gandhi’s reinstatement as a Member of Parliament (MP).

The court of Additional Sessions Judge RP Mogera had last Thursday reserved its verdict for April 20 on Gandhi’s application for a stay on conviction pending his appeal against a lower court’s order sentencing him to two years in jail in the case.

Gandhi had submitted that the trial court treated him harshly after being overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.

The 52-year-old politician was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019 but was disqualified a day after a metropolitan magistrate court in Surat on March 23 sentenced him to two years in jail in the case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Purnesh Modi under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.

On April 3

Gandhi moved the sessions court against the lower court’s order. His lawyers also filed two applications, one for a stay on the sentence (or bail till the disposal of his appeal) and another for a stay on conviction till the disposal of the appeal.

While granting Gandhi bail, the court issued notices to complainant Purnesh Modi and the state government on his plea for a stay on conviction. It heard both parties last Thursday and reserved the order for April 20.

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

Arguing for Gandhi’s plea for a stay on conviction, his lawyer had told the court that the trial in the case was “not fair” and there was no need for maximum punishment in the case.
In his submission, Gandhi had said if the March 23 judgment of the trial court is not suspended and stayed, it will cause irreparable damage to his reputation.

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He said the excessive sentence is contrary to the law on the subject and unwarranted in the present case which has overriding political overtones.

Gandhi termed his conviction as “erroneous” and “patently perverse” and said the trial court treated him harshly after being overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.

The Congress leader said he was sentenced in a manner so as to attract the order of disqualification because the trial court was well aware of his status as a parliamentarian.

The bye-election once held in Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency due to his disqualification cannot be undone if his conviction does not stay even if the court subsequently acquits him, he said. Such an election will also cause irreparable loss to the state exchequer, he said.

Opposing his plea,

MLA Modi had told the court that Gandhi is a repeat offender with several criminal defamation proceedings against him going on in different courts across the country.

He said the way Gandhi came to file his appeal showed “extraordinary arrogance” and “a very dirty display of childish arrogance and an immature act of bringing pressure upon the court”. Many Congress leaders had accompanied Gandhi when he went to file his appeal.

He also accused Gandhi of making “unfair and contemptuous comments” against the court through his aides, associates, and leaders of his party and others at his behest following his sentencing.

“The accused is in the habit of making such defamatory and irresponsible statements which may either defame others or may hurt the feelings of others, in the name of freedom of speech and political criticism and dissent,” Purnesh Modi stated in his affidavit.