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.
"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.
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.