Defamation case: Guj HC rejects Rahul Gandhi’s plea to stay defamation conviction

7 July, 2023 | Srishti Ruchandani

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In a setback for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Gujarat High Court on Friday upheld the Sessions Court's order and denied a stay on his conviction in the defamation case against 'Modi surname' remark.

The Gujarat High Court on Friday dismissed Congress leader and former MP Rahul Gandhi’s petition in the Modi surname case.

Rahul Gandhi was convicted under criminal defamation for his remarks in the Modi surname case and he appealed to Gujarat High Court to suspend this decision.

On May 2, Gujarat High Court reserved its decision on Rahul Gandhi’s petition after a bench hearing by Justice Hemant Prachhak.In the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi had given a controversial statement related to the Modi surname. Rahul Gandhi was accused of hurting the reputation of the entire Modi community.

In Gujarat, BJP MLA and former minister Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case against Rahul.

Rahul Gandhi said that when he made this statement, he did not intend to hurt the reputation of any community.

After the decision of the High Court, All India Congress Committee General Secretary KC Venugopal said that the party will challenge the decision of the Gujarat High Court in the Supreme Court.

Jairam Ramesh, Congress general secretary and in-charge of the party’s communication department, has said, “The single bench decision of the Gujarat High Court on Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as an MP has come to our notice. The arguments of the Hon’ble Judge are being studied, as it should be. The decision of the High Court has doubled our resolve to take this matter forward”

The Congress leader had moved the Gujarat High Court on April 25 challenging the Surat sessions court order which declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case.

The Surat sessions court had on April 20 rejected Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction by the lower court in the criminal defamation case.
In his judgement, Additional sessions judge Robin P Mogera had cited Gandhi’s stature as an MP and former chief of the country’s second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful.

He cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Rahul Gandhi Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname with thieves.

Judge Mogera said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society, he said.

He cited the disqualification criteria under the Representation of the People Act and added that removal or disqualification as MP could not be termed irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to Gandhi.

Following his conviction by a lower court in the criminal defamation case, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as Lok Sabha MP. He had been elected to Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala.

The lower court sentenced the Congress leader to two years in jail on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case filed by Purnesh Modi.

At a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar in April 2019, Rahul Gandhi, in a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?

Following the session’s court verdict, Congress had said it will move the Gujarat High Court.