Supreme Court Stays Rahul Gandhi’s Conviction in ‘Modi’ Surname Case
4 August, 2023 | Anupam Shrivastava
In July, the Supreme Court issued notices to both the Gujarat government and the complainant in response to Rahul Gandhi's appeal challenging the Gujarat High Court ruling.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi received a significant reprieve as the Supreme Court, in an interim order issued on Friday, suspended his conviction in the criminal defamation case pertaining to his ‘Modi surname’ remark. The apex court initiated the hearing of Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against a Gujarat High Court decision earlier in the day, which had declined to suspend his conviction in the defamation case.
During the proceedings, Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Rahul Gandhi, was apprised by the apex court that a compelling justification for the suspension of the conviction must be presented. Singhvi argued that the complainant, Purnesh Modi, had not originally held the surname ‘Modi’ and had adopted it later on.
Singhvi highlighted that none of the individuals named by Gandhi in his speech had initiated legal action. He pointed out that the community allegedly impacted by the comments comprises approximately 13 crore people, emphasizing its lack of uniformity and homogeneity. “Those aggrieved within this community are solely individuals who hold positions within the BJP and are pursuing lawsuits,” Singhvi contended.
Referring to the earlier verdict issued by a lower court, Singhvi expressed his concerns over the judge’s treatment of the case as a severe transgression involving moral turpitude. He underscored the nature of the offence as non-cognizable, bailable, and compoundable, questioning how it could be categorized as an act of moral turpitude.
“In a democracy, dissent and disagreement are inherent. This is what we call ‘shaleen bhasha’. Rahul Gandhi is not a habitual offender. While numerous cases have been filed by BJP members, no convictions have materialized. It’s worth noting that Gandhi has already missed two parliamentary sessions due to this case,” Singhvi added.
In July, the Supreme Court issued notices to both the Gujarat government and the complainant in response to Rahul Gandhi’s appeal challenging the Gujarat High Court ruling. The high court’s decision had declined to suspend his conviction in the criminal defamation case that resulted in a two-year jail term by a Surat court for his ‘Modi surname’ remarks ahead of the 2019 national elections.
It was in March that a magisterial court convicted Rahul Gandhi for his comments related to the ‘Modi’ surname. The ongoing legal proceedings have now taken a pivotal turn with the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the conviction temporarily, potentially marking a turning point in this high-profile case.