Supreme relief to Rahul Gandhi, ban on punishment, parliament membership will be restored

NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a defamation case, enabling him to return to parliament and contest national elections due 2024. Gandhi was convicted in March in a case brought by a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the western state of Gujarat, over comments he made in 2019 deemed insulting to Prime MinisterNarendra Modi and other people surnamed Modi, including the lawmaker.
After the stay, Rahul Gandhi’s status as a Member of Parliament was successfully revived. In its judgement, Supreme Court cited that there was no reasons given by trial judge in giving the maximum punishment of two years. He will also be able to contest the 2024 elections. On getting relief to Rahul Gandhi, the Congress said in a tweet, it is a victory of love against hatred. Satyamev Jayate-Jai Hind. Former Secretary General of Lok Sabha PDT Acharya told this correspondent, “It has to be done immediately.” He said Mr. Gandhi is likely to start attending the ongoing Parliament session from Monday.
“It is a very happy day for us, democracy has won, Constitution has won,” said Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge after SC relief to Rahul Gandhi. “I welcome SC judgment; Victory not just of Rahul Gandhi, but of people of country and democracy,” the senior leader further said.“This is victory of people and of voters of Wayanad,” Cong chief Mallikarjun Kharge further said on SC stay on Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a defamation case.

A Surat court had earlier found him guilty and handed him the maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment – leading to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha. The Gujarat high court had refused to stay the conviction, after which Gandhi had appealed in the Supreme Court. Gandhi, 53, scion of a dynasty that has given India three prime ministers, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment but the jail term was put on hold and he was granted bail. He also lost his parliamentary seat following the conviction, since lawmakers sentenced to jail terms of two years or more are automatically disqualified. As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling the lower house of parliament should now formally reinstate Gandhi.The office of the lower house of parliament will need to revoke Mr Gandhi’s disqualification for him to become an MP again. “This will have to be done immediately,” PDT Achary, former secretary general of the lower house, told the BBC. He added that Mr Gandhi can start attending the ongoing parliament session from Monday.
The Supreme Court noted that the reasons given by the trial judge for giving the maximum punishment of two years to Mr Gandhi “are without sufficient reasons and grounds”. In his complaint,BJP MLA  Purnesh Modi alleged that the comments had defamed the entire Modi community. However, Mr Gandhi said that he made the comment to highlight corruption and it was not directed against any community. Lower court had granted Mr Gandhi bail to appeal against his conviction but in July, the Gujarat high court dismissed his appeal seeking a stay on his conviction.The Supreme Court, however, also said that Gandhi’s remarks in Kolar before the 2019 elections – for which the case was filed – were “not in good taste”. The Top Court said 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.
Gandhi had said, “I have a question. Why do all these thieves have Modi in their names whether it is Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi? We don’t know how many more such Modis will come out.” BJP leader Purnesh Modi had filed a defamation case against Gandhi, saying that he had defamed the ‘Modi community’. Gandhi has maintained that he is not guilty and so will not apologise, while also arguing that there is no one community of all people who share the Modi surname.
With the Supreme Court staying Gandhi’s conviction, his disqualification also now stands in abeyance. The apex court order questioned the sentence handed to Gandhi by the lower court. A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai, P.S. Narasimha and P.V. Sanjay Kumarsaid that the trial court did not give specific reasons for imposing the maximum punishment under the offence.
Though the appellate court and the High Court have spent voluminous pages in rejecting the applications, these aspects are not seen considered.””It is a victory of love against hate. Satyamev Jayate – Jai Hind,” Congress said in a tweet. Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years’ jail for comments he made in 2019 that a court ruled were insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and those sharing his last name.
The Supreme Court observed in its judgement, adding that it would not have attracted disqualification if the sentence was a day lesser.”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. Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “It’s a happy day… I will write and speak to Lok Sabha Speaker today itself.” The order will allow him to return to parliament and contest national elections due next year.
(Bureau Report With Agencies Inputs).

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