Rahul Gandhi also thanked people of Telangana for giving majority to the Congress party and promised to deliver on the promises made during the polls.
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against Gujarat High Court order refusing to stay his conviction and two-year sentence in a defamation case which resulted in his disqualification from the membership of the Lok Sabha.
The notice has been issued to the complainant Purnesh Modi in the defamation case. He had filed a caveat in the matter and senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani represented him in the top court. Besides Purnesh Modi, yjr notice has also been issued to Gujarat government.
Issuing the notice and posting the appeal for hearing on August 4, Justice B R Gavai, heading a bench also comprising Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra said, “The limited question for consideration is whether the conviction has to be suspended or not.”
Urging the bench to give a “shortest date” for the hearing of the matter, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Rahul Gandhi said that it is already 111 days since he lost his seat in Lok Sabha and one session. He expressed apprehension that the by-election to Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, which Rahul Gandhi represented, may be announced.
“He could not attend the last parliament session and now stands to be out of the ongoing session. Please consider granting interim stay on conviction,” Singhvi told the bench.
Seeking 10 days to file the reply, Mahesh Jethmalani said that he would be submitting proposition of law and some facts.
The bench said that petitioner Rahil Gandhi would get two days’ time to file rejoinder, if he so desired.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Gavai expressed his hesitation to hear the matter, informing that his brother is in active politics and is associated with Congress Party.
Asking if any of the party in the matter had any objection to his hearing the matter, Justice Gavai said that his father was a politician and had been an MLA and MP with the support of Congress party, with which he (hid father) had a close association for more than 40 years. “If any party has objection, then I will recuse”, he said..
Telling that both senior advocates – Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Mahesh Jethmalani knew about him and his background but wanted all to know about it, Justice Gavai said, “My father was a good friend of Singhvi’s father and Jethmalani’s father. I had the privilege of appearing with Ram Jethmalani as a junior in an election matter.”
Both Singhvi and Jethmalani said they have no problem in Justice Gavai hearing the matter.
A Surat magistrate court had on March 23 convicted Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case and sentenced him to two years in jail. The Surat Session’s court on April 20 upheld the magistrate court’s order.
Following his conviction in the case, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as Lok Sabha member on March 24 under the provisions of the Representation of People Act. Rahul Gandhi was elected to Lok Sabha from Wayanad parliamentary constituency in Kerala.
Seeking the stay of the High Court order, Rahul Gandhi in his petition has said that the High Court judgment “has no parallel or precedent in the jurisprudence of the law of defamation”.
Rahul Gandhi in his petition has said that “Unprecedentedly, in a case of criminal defamation, a maximum sentence of two years has been imposed. This itself is a rarest of rare occurrence.”
Describing as “not only curious but extremely significant, indeed sinister”, Gandhi in his petition has said that all earlier cases, including the present one relating to his 2019 speech during general election to Lok Sabha were filed by members and office bearers of the ruling party.
Petition states that the surname ‘Modi’, in different parts of the country, encompassed different communities and sub-communities, which usually have no commonality or uniformity at all. The Modi surname belonged to various castes.
The complainant, the petition says, who simply has a ‘Modi’ surname, did not prove that he was prejudiced or damaged in any specific or personal sense.
The Gujarat High Court had on July 7 affirmed the decision of a Surat Sessions court, which had declined to put on hold a magisterial court order on March 23, 2023, convicting Gandhi and handing out the maximum punishment provided for criminal defamation under the Indian Penal Code.
In his judgement, Additional Sessions judge Robin P. Mogera had cited Gandhi’s stature as a member of parliament and former chief of the country’s second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful.
Additional Sessions judge cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Rahul Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname with thieves.
In March, the magisterial court had convicted Gandhi for his remarks on ‘Modi’ surname that he had made during a public gathering before the 2019 general election to Lok Sabha.
Purnesh Modi – the complainant – on whose complaint the Surat magistrate court had convicted and sentenced Rahul Gandhi to two-year jail has already filed a caveat in Supreme Court seeking to be heard as and when the Congress leader’s plea against the High Court order is taken up for hearing.