Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday requested the Supreme Court to stay his conviction in a criminal defamation case and allow him to participate in the ongoing sittings of the Lok Sabha. Gandhi was disqualified as MP from Kerala's Wayanad on March 24 after he was convicted by a Gujarat court over his 'Modi surname' remark made at an election rally in Karnataka's Kolar in 2019.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the Congress leader claimed that his conviction is “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.
It further said that using the criminal process and the consequences under Representation of People Act to arm-twist the petitioner into apologising for no fault is gross abuse of the judicial process and ought not to be countenanced by this court.
"On the other hand, there is no prejudice caused at all to the complainant. It is therefore prayed for that the conviction of Rahul Gandhi be stayed, enabling him to participate in the ongoing sittings of the Lok Sabha and the sessions thereafter," he said.
The affidavit further stated that Gandhi has an ‘exceptional' case considering the offence being trivial, and the irreparable harm that accrues to him as an elected MP.
Gandhi was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat court on March 23 on a petition filed by Gujarat BJP MLA Purnesh Modi who alleged that the Congress leader had insulted the entire Modi community through his remark. Addressing the poll rally in Kolar, Gandhi had asked "How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?" apparently comparing Prime Minister Narendra Modi with fugitive businessmen Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi.
Gandhi moved the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court in its order on July 7 refused to stay his conviction, noting that staying conviction is not a rule and that same must be exercised in rare cases. Justice Hemant Prachchhak said that there are 10 criminal cases pending against him (Rahul Gandhi). He also observed that more cases were filed against him after this case.
On June 21, the top court had sought responses from Modi and the state government on Gandhi's appeal. In his appeal filed on July 15, Gandhi said if the July 7 judgment has not stayed, it would lead to the throttling of free speech, expression, thought, and statement.