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Rahul Gandhi Goes To Gujarat High Court After No Relief In Defamation Case

Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from parliament after receiving a two-year jail term in a defamation case.

New Delhi:

Congress’s Rahul Gandhi has appealed to the Gujarat High Court after a lower court turned down his request to pause conviction in the case involving his remarks on the surname of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Gandhi was disqualified last month after receiving a two-year jail term — the maximum possible in a criminal defamation case and just making the cut to bar him from parliament.

The law requires that if one is convicted in any offence for two years, his or her seat will be vacant. One can stay on as an MP only if the conviction is suspended.

In his appeal to the Surat court earlier this month, Mr Gandhi had said the trial court had treated him harshly, overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.

The judge, Robin Mongera, however, disagreed, saying Mr Gandhi had “failed to demonstrate that by not staying the conviction and denying an opportunity to contest the election, an irreversible and irrevocable damage will be caused to him”.

The court said a high standard of morality was expected from a person of Mr. Gandhi’s stature and in this context, cited a remark from the Supreme Court that decisions to pause conviction should be exercised with caution and “not in a casual and mechanical manner… that will shake public confidence in the judiciary.”

In the campaign ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Mr Gandhi had said, “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi” – targeting the Prime Minister over his last name, which he shares with fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.

The BJP alleged it was an insult to the OBC (Other Backward Classes) community and a party leader in Gujarat, Purnesh Modi, filed a defamation case against Mr Gandhi.

The Gujarat court which convicted him, had granted him bail and 30 days’ time to file an appeal.

Mr Gandhi’s conviction and disqualification had led to a huge political row and has brought the opposition on the same side of the issue. Irrespective of ideological and political boundaries, the opposition has condemned the move and accused the Centre of delivering a body blow to democracy.

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