Friday, April 19, 2024

Lok Sabha restores membership of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

Following the Supreme Court order of August 4, the Lok Sabha Secretariat on Monday restored the membership of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, which was suspended after his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “all thieves have Modi surname” remark.

On August 4, the Supreme Court had stayed the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the two-year jail term imposed on him by a Gujarat court in a criminal defamation case, which led to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha over his remark “Why all thieves have Modi surname”.

The Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice Sanjay Kumar passed the order on a petition filed by the Congress leader against the Gujarat High Court verdict, which upheld his conviction in the criminal defamation case over the Modi remark.

The Bench noted that the trial judge did not give any other reason for awarding maximum sentence under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act except the admonition by the Supreme Court. 

It said when the offence was non-cognisable, bailable and compoundable, the trial judge was expected to give reasons for imposing maximum sentence.

Had the sentence been a day lesser, the provisions under the RP Act would not have been attracted, noted the top court of the country. It said though the appellate and the High Court spent voluminous pages rejecting stay on conviction, these aspects were not considered in their orders.

The Apex Court, while noting that the ‘utterances’ of Rahul Gandhi were not in good taste, observed that a person in public life was expected to exercise caution while making public speeches. The bench further suggested Gandhi to be ‘more careful’ in future.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for Rahul Gandhi. 

Earlier on July 18, the Apex Court had agreed to hear Gandhi’s application after Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi sought urgent hearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.

An instant appeal was moved by Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court’s refusal to stay the conviction for his remark “All thieves have Modi surname”.

On July 7, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Hemant Prachchhak of Gujarat High Court had rejected the review petition filed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case that led to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.

The High Court further refused to stay the conviction and two-year jail term awarded to the Congress leader.

It observed that staying the conviction was not a rule and the same must only be exercised in rare cases. The Bench noted that at least 10 criminal cases were pending against Gandhi.

The petition filed by Rahul contended that the offence of defamation under Sections 499/500 of the Indian Penal Code was attracted only with respect to a defined group.

It claimed that ‘Modi’ was an undefined amorphous group having about 13 crore people living in different parts of the country and belonging to different communities.

The plea further noted that the term ‘Modi’ did not fall in any category of association or collection of persons as stipulated under Section 499 of IPC.

The Congress leader claimed in the petition that he made the comment referring to Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi. The comment was specifically referring to certain specified individuals and the complainant, Purnesh Ishwarbhai Modi, could not be held to be defamed by the said remark, which was addressed in a specific context in reference to specific individuals.

On March 23, a local court in Surat district of Gujarat had convicted Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case for his alleged remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2019.

The Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate H.H. Varma sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail and also imposed a fine of Rs 15,000 after finding him guilty under Sections 499 (Defamation) and 500 (punishment for Defamation) IPC.

Gandhi’s conviction under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), both of which warranted a maximum sentence of two years, led to his disqualification from the Parliament, as per a Supreme Court order of 2013.


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