The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday reserved its order on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 ‘Modi surname’ defamation case.
Justice Hemant Prachchhak will pronounce the verdict after vacations. The court refused to grant any interim relief to Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi had moved the Gujarat High Court on April 25 challenging the Surat sessions court order which declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case.
During the hearing on April 29, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, had sought time to produce certain documents on record after which the court adjourned the hearing to May 2.
The Surat sessions court had on April 20 rejected Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case.
In his judgement, Additional sessions judge Robin P Mogera had cited Gandhi’s stature as an MP and former chief of the country’s second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful. He cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname with thieves.
Mogera said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. “…the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society,” he said.
Mogera cited the disqualification criteria under the Representation of the People Act and added that removal or disqualification as MP could not be termed irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to Gandhi.
Following his conviction by a lower court in the criminal defamation case, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as Lok Sabha MP. He had been elected to Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala.
The lower court sentenced the Congress leader to two years in jail on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case filed by Purnesh Modi.
At a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar in April 2019, Rahul Gandhi, in a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”.
Following the sessions court verdict, Congress had said it will move the Gujarat High Court.