Sunday, 1 October, 2023

Rahul Gandhi set to return to parliament as his conviction suspended

  • Gautam Lahiri from New Delhi
  • 4th August, 2023 04:09:19 PM
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The Supreme Court of India on Friday (Aug 4) stayed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's conviction in a defamation case, enabling him to return to parliament and contest national elections due next year.

Rahul was convicted in March in a case brought by a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat, over comments he made in 2019 deemed insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other people surnamed Modi, including the lawmaker.

A three-judge bench of Justices B R Gavai, PS Narasimha and Sanjay Kumar, however, said (there was) no doubt that the utterances were not in good taste and that a person in public life is expected to exercise caution while making public speeches.

"No reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence, the order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication," the bench said.

As a result of the Supreme Court's ruling the lower house of parliament should now formally reinstate Gandhi.

Earlier, the lower courts and the High Court in Gujarat, where the BJP holds power, had rejected appeals by Rahul Gandhi to suspend the conviction, causing him to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court judge Justice BR Gavai said the lower court which sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail had not given any reasons for handing down the maximum sentence of two years which led to his disqualification from parliament.

While Rahul Gandhi’s comments were “not in good taste” and he “ought to have been more careful while making public speeches”, the conviction not only punished Gandhi but also voters who had elected him to represent their constituency, said Gavai, who headed a bench of three judges which suspended the conviction.

Gandhi’s 731-page submission to the Supreme Court said his speech was made “in the course of democratic political activity”. His sentence was “gravely detrimental to democratic free speech”, added the document.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of Congress in the lower house of parliament, said he would write to the speaker on Friday itself seeking Gandhi’s reinstatement. “Rahul Gandhi has got relief from the false allegations that were made against him,” Chowdhury told reporters. “This is the victory of truth…it will cost Modi heavily.” There was no immediate reaction to the court ruling from BJP.