Rahul Gandhi to move Supreme Court after Gujarat High Court dismisses appeal in defamation case
The Gujarat high court has dismissed Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal seeking a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case.
Ahmedabad (BBC)- Congress said it will move the Supreme Court against the Gujarat High Court’s Friday verdict to stay former party president Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ defamation case.
The Gujarat HC on Friday dismissed his review petition and refused to stay his conviction in the 2019 Modi surname case.
On Friday, the Congress party said Mr Gandhi would appeal against the order in the Supreme Court.
"Judgment has been passed in spite of lack of evidence"
◆ Rahul Gandhi's lawyer BM Manjukia said on Gujarat High Court's decision
— Diplomat Times (@diplomattimes) July 7, 2023
Mr Gandhi will not be arrested until he has exhausted all legal appeals as his arrest was put on hold.
Friday’s decision is being seen as a setback for the Congress leader as it means he cannot contest national elections due next year.
While dismissing his appeal, the Gujarat high court said Mr Gandhi’s conviction was “just and proper”.
Addressing a press conference later in the day, party leader and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the case was “a matter of free speech and expression”.
These complaints have been filed by the workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he said.
“The aim of this government is to control the freedom of expression,” he said. “That is why the law of defamation has been misused.”
Party president Mallikarjun Kharge said Mr Gandhi was “fighting for truth” and would continue this fight.
Mr Gandhi lost his seat in parliament a day after his conviction on 23 March due to a Supreme Court order which says that a lawmaker convicted in a crime and sentenced to two or more years in jail is disqualified with immediate effect.
The party criticised Mr Gandhi’s conviction and accused the governing BJP of political vendetta. The BJP denied this, saying that due judicial process was followed in the case.
The defamation case against Mr Gandhi, brought by BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi, revolved around comments Mr Gandhi made in Karnataka state in 2019 during an election rally. “Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi,” he said.
Nirav Modi is a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon while Lalit Modi is a former chief of the Indian Premier League who has been banned for life by the country’s cricket board.
In his complaint, Purnesh Modi alleged that the comments had defamed the entire Modi community. However, Mr Gandhi said that he made the comment to highlight corruption and it was not directed against any community.
A lower court had granted Mr Gandhi bail to appeal against his conviction, but it’s the stay or suspension of his conviction that’s crucial to reinstating him as an MP.