Gujarat HC refuses to grant interim relief to Rahul Gandhi in defamation case, verdict after court vacations

2 May, 2023 | Pragati Singh

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Surat Sessions Court denied Rahul Gandhi's request for a stay of execution in his 2019 criminal defamation case.

The Gujarat High Court deferred its decision on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s petition for a stay of execution in the 2019 ‘Modi surname’ defamation case on Tuesday. After vacations, Justice Hemant Prachchhak will deliver the verdict. Rahul Gandhi was denied interim relief by the court. On April 25, Rahul Gandhi filed an appeal with the Gujarat High Court, appealing the Surat Sessions Court’s decision not to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case.

During the April 29 hearing, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Rahul Gandhi, requested time to produce certain documents on record, and the court adjourned the hearing to May 2. On April 20, the Surat Sessions Court denied Rahul Gandhi’s request for a stay of execution in his 2019 criminal defamation case.

Additional Sessions Judge Robin P Mogera noted Gandhi’s position as an MP and former leader of the country’s second-largest political party in his decision, saying he should have been more cautious. He cited prima facie evidence and trial court opinions, claiming that Gandhi made insulting remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi in addition to comparing persons with the same surname to thieves.

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.

Mogera noted the disqualification requirements under the Representation of the People Act and said that Gandhi’s removal or disqualification as a Member of Parliament could not be described as irrevocable or irreparable loss or damage. Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP after being convicted in a criminal defamation case by a lower court. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Kerala district of Wayanad.

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

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

Following the sessions court decision, the Congress said it would appeal to the Gujarat High Court.