On Wednesday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma lashed out at the Congress over its ongoing protests against the conviction of Rahul Gandhi by a Surat court, eventually leading to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
The Assam CM said the trend the Congress was setting with its protests wasn’t good for democracy. In a dig at Rahul, the senior BJP leader added that no one can cast aspersions on the country’s time-honoured judicial system if a particular judgment goes against him.
Speaking at the state Assembly on Wednesday, the Assam chief minister said, “Tomorrow, if a court convicts me in a case, will BJP MLAs wear black clothes and demonstrate? No. We might move the sessions court, high court or the Supreme Court, challenging the verdict, but we will never defy the judiciary. This trend (of casting aspersions on the judicial system) is not good for our democracy.”
He said Congress should consider approaching a higher court against the Surat court verdict and explore all legal avenues that are open to them.
“Justice HS Verma of Surat High Court (who pronounced the judgment against Rahul) may have been wrong, but our judicial process is well laid out. They can challenge his conviction at a session, high, or even the Supreme Court. But instead, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha is leading the protests (by the Congress) against the Surat court judgment,” Sarma added.
He said the judiciary was a “double-edged sword” as judgments can sometimes go in one’s favour and sometimes against.
“Court judgments may be in favour of a person or may even go against him. But will you launch protests just because a particular judgment went against you? Will you seek an adjournment motion in Parliament?” the Assam CM asked.
Further hitting out at the Congress on Twitter, Sarma said the ongoing protests by the grand, old party against Rahul’s conviction and disqualification from Parliament were “baffling”.
“The Congress party’s opposition to the immediate disqualification of Rahul is baffling. As it was Rahul Gandhi in 2013 who overruled his government and said upon conviction of two years or more, (the) disqualification should be immediate, and no interim relief should be given,” he said in a tweet.
Sarma added, “The Congress’ opposition (to Rahul’s disqualification) could harm our democracy. This decision (conviction) wasn’t by Modi-ji, it was by the court. One must accept judgements even if they aren’t in one’s favour. Instead of moving to a higher court, they have chosen to protest against a court judgment on the streets.”
Hitting out at Rahul, the Assam CM said his statement (leading to his conviction and sentencing for criminal defamation) was against “an entire community”.
Addressing a public meeting at Kolar, Karnataka, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul said, “How come to all thieves have ‘Modi’ as their common surname?” The remark was interpreted as a veiled dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“During the court hearing, Rahul Gandhi was given several opportunities to retract his statement and apologise. However, he refused to apologise, prompting the court to rule against him,” the Assam CM said.
He reminded Congress that the previous UPA government went back on its decision to bring an Ordinance against the immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs after Rahul voiced opposition to the move.
The Surat court on March 23 held Rahul guilty of criminal defamation over his remark using the surname ‘Modi’ and sentenced him to two years imprisonment. However, the sentence was later suspended for 30 days, during which he could challenge his conviction in a higher court.
Rahul was disqualified as an MP on March 24, per a Supreme Court ruling in 2013. Under the ruling, any MP or MLA is automatically disqualified if convicted and sentenced to two years or more.
After his disqualification, Congress attacked the BJP, alleging that Rahul was stripped of his status of MP for raising the Adani issue in Parliament.