Rahul Gandhi, a key opposition leader in India has been disqualified from Parliament and was sentenced to two years in jail for making defamatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Rahul Gandhi … stands disqualified from the member of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction,” a notice issued by the parliament said on Friday, March 25th referring to India’s Lower House of Parliament.
In a tweet in Hindi following the move, Gandhi said he is “fighting for India’s voice” and that he “will pay any price for it.” Gandhi, chairman of the Indian Youth Congress – the youth wing of the Congress party was found guilty by a lower Court in India for the supposedly defamatory comments he had made relating to Modi’s surname at a 2019 rally before the last general election.
During a political rally, Gandhi had asked the crowd at the event as he criticized the prime minister’s economic policies: “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” He went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi.
Rahul Gandhi has been convicted under IPC Section 500. The maximum possible punishment under this section is two years. MPs, MLAs and MLCs lose their membership if they are sentenced to two years in jail or more. They cannot even contest elections for six years, as per the Representation of the People Act of 1951.
The court has granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court, Congress leader’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said. Gandhi was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced. Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi, denied making any defamatory remarks about people with the surname “Modi” during the hearing.
The Congress leader claimed that he is a national leader who raises issues of corruption and unemployment in his speeches in the interest of the nation when the magistrate asked him if he had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of giving Rs 30 crore to an industrialist. The scion of Gandhi asserted that he was entitled to bring up such topics at rallies.
Gandhi claimed that he never said that all Modi family members were thieves when the court asked if he had. Prior to that, Rahul Gandhi had pleaded not guilty to the charge of making the remark when he appeared in court in October 2019.
Congress officials have described the court order as politically motivated and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of targeting political opponents. Earlier on Friday, Congress members held protests in some parts of the country against Gandhi’s conviction and two-year-old jail sentence. Modi’s government has been widely accused of using the defamation law to target and silence critics.
“We believe in law, judiciary and we will fight against this as per law,” said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge. “He has been granted bail. We knew from the beginning because they kept changing judges. We believe in law, judiciary and we will fight against this as per law,” said Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge on Rahul Gandhi found guilty in the criminal defamation case filed against him over his alleged ‘Modi surname’ remark.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot called him “courageous” and said that only he can compete with NDA government. “We keep saying our democracy is in danger as there is pressure on judiciary, ECI, ED & they’re all misused. All decisions are made under influence. Such comments are common… Rahul Gandhi is a courageous man & only he can compete with NDA govt,” said Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.
“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it,” tweeted Gandhi after being convicted in a politically motivated and influenced case, where the key Opposition Leader in India was given the maximum punishment under the law, 2 years in jail by a Surat court.