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SC Stays Conviction; Rahul Gandhi To Be Back in Lok Sabha, Can Contest Polls

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stayed the conviction of Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi in the  ‘Modi surname’ criminal defamation case. Poornesh Modi, a BJP MLA from Gujarat had filed a criminal defamation case in a Magistrate court in Sura against Rahula Gandhi for “defaming Modi community in a speech he made during an election campaign 2019 in Karnataka.

The trial court had awarded maximum sentence of two years jail term in the case and the  Apex court in its judgement today observed that , the top court observed  that  the petitioner would not have have attracted disqualification if the sentence was a day lesser.

Rahul Gandhi had also in April told a sessions court in Surat his conviction by a magistrate’s court in the 2019 defamation case was erroneous, patently perverse, and he was sentenced in a manner so as to attract disqualification as a Member of Parliament. He had said he was treated harshly by the trial court, which was “overwhelmingly influenced” by his status as a Member of the Lower House.

However the Court observed that the utterances by the petitioner were not in good taste, “and the petitioner ought to have been more careful in making speeches”.

“The ramifications of disqualification not just affect the right of the individual but also the electorate,”  the Bench said.

This Supreme Court verdict will allow Rahul Gandhi to attend the Parliament and contest elections. During the argument his lawyer had told the court, that the High Court had reserved its judgement for 66 days, and due to conviction in the case, Mr Gandhi has already lost two Parliament sessions.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha, and Sanjay Kumar was hearing Rahul Gandhi’s plea for stay on his conviction. The Gujarat High Court had earlier refused to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Rahul Gandhi, said the trial has been completed, and Mr Gandhi has even been convicted, yet there is no evidence so far.

Mr Singhvi said this is the first time 30 crore people have held to be an identifiable class. “They are amorphous, non-homogenous…communities, castes, and groups with appellation ‘Modi’ are totally different,” he said.

Justice Gavai had at the beginning of the hearing said Mr Gandhi will have to make out an exceptional case for a stay on conviction, to which Mr Singhvi said he was not arguing conviction today.

Mr Singhvi argued the complainant Purnesh Modi’s original surname is not Modi, and he had changed it.

“The complainant Purnesh Modi himself said that his original surname was not Modi. He belongs to Modh Vanika Samaj,” he argued, and claimed not a single of the persons Mr Gandhi had named during his speech have sued him.

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