The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's plea for a stay on his conviction in the defamation case arising out of his "Modi surname" remarks on July 21. Gandhi approached the top court after the Gujarat High Court refused to stay his conviction in the case.
Arguing that the conviction order would lead to throttling of free speech, free expression, free thought, and free statement, Gandhi urged the top court to immediately stay his conviction to also enable him to regain his MP status. “It would contribute to the systematic, repetitive emasculation of democratic institutions and the consequent strangulation of democracy which would be gravely detrimental to the political climate and future of India,” he said.
BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi filed the criminal defamation case 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.
Gujarat High Court dismissed Rahul Gandhi's plea
The Gujarat High Court dismissed Rahul Gandhi's review plea to suspend his conviction in the case while noting that the stay on conviction was being sought on 'absolutely non-existent' grounds. "Stay on conviction is not a rule. As many as 10 cases are pending against (Gandhi). It is needed to have purity in politics...A complaint has been filed against (Gandhi) by the grandson of Veer Savarkar in Pune Court after Gandhi used terms against Veer Savarkar at Cambridge...Refusal to stay conviction would not in any way result in injustice to the applicant. There are no reasonable grounds to stay conviction," Justice Hemant Prachchhak observed while pronouncing the order.
BJP MLA Purnesh Modi had welcomed the high court's verdict. "He should think about it and not create such histories," he said when asked about court's observation that Rahul Gandhi has made such remarks before.
Under the law, the conviction and two-year jail term would render Rahul Gandhi unfit to enter either House of Parliament for a period of eight years. However, this can be reversed if a higher court overturns or suspends his conviction.