The Supreme Court has stayed Rahul Gandhi's conviction in the 'Modi surname' defamation case. The court was hearing an appeal filed by Rahul Gandhi challenging Gujarat High Court order which declined to stay his conviction in the case.
"Come what may, my duty remains the same. Protect the idea of India," Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet after the court relief.
Come what may, my duty remains the same.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 4, 2023
Protect the idea of India.
While pronouncing the order, the top court said that the ramifications of the trial court’s order are 'wide'. "Not only was Gandhi’s right to continue in public life affected but also that of the electorate who elected him," the court noted. "There is no doubt that utterances are not in good taste, person in public life is expected to exercise caution while making public speeches. As observed by this court while accepting his affidavit in the contempt petition, he (Rahul Gandhi) ought to have been more careful," the court added.
The criminal defamation case was filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi, over a remark made by Gandhi during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign. Referring to persons like Lalit Modi, and Nirav Modi, Gandhi had allegedly asked "Why do all thieves have the same surname?". Alleging that Gandhi's remarks defamed the 'entire Modi community', BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi filed a defamation case against him. Conviction in this case led to Gandhi's disqualification from the Parliament.
Supreme Court hears plea
The Gujarat court had earlier refused to hear Gandhi's review plea to suspend his conviction in the case. The court noted that the stay on conviction was being sought on 'absolutely non-existent' grounds. Today, while hearing the Congress leader's appeal against the Gujarat court's verdict, the Supreme Court noted that the Gujarat High Court order made for a "very interesting read" and that it had "lots of preaching."
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Rahul Gandhi said that this is Rahul Gandhi's last chance to get acquittal in order to attend the Parliament and contest elections.
He further said that complainant Purnesh Modi’s original surname is not 'Modi' and he adopted this surname later. "Not a single of the persons Gandhi had named during his speech has sued. This is a small community of 13 crore people and there is no uniformity, or homogeneity. Who is aggrieved in this community are only people who are BJP office-holders and suing," Singhvi adds.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appearing for complainant Purnesh Modi argued that the entire speech spanned over 50 minutes and there is a plethora of evidence and clipping of the speech attached in Election Commission of India’s record.
However, the top court noted that no reasoning was given for awarding the maximum sentence to the leader. "Even if the sentence was a day lesser, Rahul Gandhi would not have incurred disqualifation," the court observed.
The Congress leader had filed an affidavit with the top court earlier wherein he claimed this conviction was "unsustainable". "The petitioner maintains and has always maintained that he is not guilty of an offence and that the conviction is unsustainable and if he had to apologise and compound the offence, he would have done it much earlier," Gandhi said in the affidavit.