A court in Gujarat's Surat on Thursday (March 23) held Congress leader Rahul Gandhi guilty in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed in connection with his "Modi surname" remarks and sentenced him to two years in jail
He was, however, granted bail for 30 days and allowed to appeal the decision on a surety amount of Rs 15,000.
The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma, which held Gandhi guilty, also granted him bail, the Congress leader's lawyer Babu Mangukiya said. Gandhi was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced.
The case was filed against Gandhi for his alleged “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remarks on a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.
The Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad had made the remarks ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka.
The complainant had claimed that the remarks defamed the entire Modi community.
Gandhi has been convicted under IPC Section 504. The maximum possible punishment under this section is two years. Section 504 of IPC defines ‘intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.’
He had last appeared before the Surat court in the case in October 2021 to record his statement.
The section states that whoever intentionally insults, and thereby causes provocation to any person, intending to cause provocation or knowing that such provocation would likely cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term up to two years, or with fine, or with both.
If this sentence is not suspended and Rahul Gandhi gets two-years imprisonment, it would technically disqualify Gandhi from Lok Sabha under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, unless the sentencing is stayed by a higher court. Any MP, Gandhi in this case, is allowed 3 months for appeal.
According to Section 8(3) in The Representation of the People Act, 1951 a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.
Gandhi's lawyer has argued that court proceedings were "flawed" from the beginning as the procedure laid down under section 202 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) was not followed.
His lawyer also said that that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and not MLA Purnesh Modi, should have been the complainant in the case because the PM was the main target of Gandhi's speech.
The Congress on Thursday put up posters outside the Surat Court where the Congress MP arrived for the court proceedings. The posters said “let's go to Surat in support of democracy” along with pictures of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev.
After the judgment, Rahul Gandhi shared a quote by Mahatma Gandhi on Twitter. It said: "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it."
मेरा धर्म सत्य और अहिंसा पर आधारित है। सत्य मेरा भगवान है, अहिंसा उसे पाने का साधन।— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 23, 2023
- महात्मा गांधी