Court to rule on Rahul Gandhi’s plea April 20

He was convicted by a magistrate court in Surat on March 23 on a complaint filed by BJP legislator Purnesh Modi for a remark made at an election rally in 2019.


Rahul Gandhi. File photo

April 14, 2023

DHAKA – A sessions court in Surat in India’s Gujarat today said it will give its ruling on April 20 regarding a criminal defamation case against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who is seeking a stay on his conviction.

Rahul Gandhi was convicted by a magistrate court in Surat on March 23 on a complaint filed by BJP legislator Purnesh Modi for his “why do all thieves have Modi as surname” remark made at an election rally in 2019.

Purneesh Modi claimed Rahul’s comment defamed the entire Modi community.

Sessions Judge Robin Mogera heard arguments from the lawyers of Rahul Gandhi and Purnesh Modi before deciding the date of his ruling.

The magistrate court had convicted Rahul Gandhi of criminal defamation and sentenced him to two years in jail. As a result of his conviction, the former Congress President was disqualified as a Lok Sabha member.

Rahul Gandhi then moved the Surat sessions court challenging his conviction.

During the hearing in the sessions court today, Rahul’s lawyer R S Cheema contended that as per defamation law, only an aggrieved person can file a complaint.

The court will have to examine whether Purnesh Modi had the locus to file the complaint, he submitted.

Cheema said the speech by Rahul Gandhi needs to be analysed contextually to ascertain whether there was any intent on the part of the speaker to defame the group of persons with the surname Modi.

He in his submission claimed that the litigation is nothing but an outcome of speaking up critically against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Cheema also expressed reservations about the evidence produced before the trial court and said that the whole speech was not brought on record.

On the other hand, advocate Harshit Tolia, appearing for Purnesh Modi, presented his case before the court against the stay order on the conviction.

“Please consider the gravity of the offence. He is the sitting MP. … His speech made a huge impact on the people of India,” it was contended.

Tolia further said that part of the speech against ‘Modi surname’ was what hurt his client.

“In his speech, he spoke of PM Modi but didn’t stop there and went beyond it. He has said, ‘why do all thieves have Modi as surname? Search and you’ll find more Modis’. My client is hurt by this part of the speech thus the complaint,” Tolia stated.

Tolia also justified the maximum punishment imposed on Rahul Gandhi by the trial court. He also said that a lawmaker does not deserve any special treatment.

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