Rahul Gandhi, India’s Key Opposition Leader Disqualified From Parliament And Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison For Defaming Modi

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.

“Indian Democracy Is Under Pressure And Under Attack:” Rahul Gandhi At Cambridge

“Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. The institutional framework which is required for a democracy … the Parliament, free press, the judiciary, just the idea of mobilization — these are all getting constrained. We are facing an attack on the basic structure of democracy,” Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi, while accusing the Modi-led government in India of unleashing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy.

Gandhi was addressing students at Cambridge University last week. He alleged that the Israeli spyware Pegasus had been used to snoop on him and several other politicians. He alleged that he had been warned by intelligence officers to be “careful” while speaking on the phone as his calls were being recorded.

Rahul Gandhi noted that in the Indian Constitution, the country is described as a Union of States and that Union requires negotiation and conversation. “It is that negotiation that is under attack and threat…there is also attack on minorities and press.

“I myself had Pegasus on my phone. Large number of politicians have Pegasus on their phones. I’ve been called by Intelligence officers who say please be careful of what you say on your phone as we are recording the stuff,” the Congress leader had said, according to news agency ANI.

Gandhi said, “This is a constant pressure that we feel. I’ve got a number of criminal liable cases registered against me for the things which, under no circumstances, be criminal cases. And that’s what we are trying to defend.”

He continued, “As the Opposition, it is very difficult to communicate with people when you have this type of an assault on media and on the democratic architecture.”

Picture : IYC

Hitting back at him, India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Sports and Youth Affairs, Anurag Singh Thakur, claimed that the Congress leader was “once again crying on an international platform”. Addressing a press conference, he said: “He knew the consequences of doing this … The matter of Pegasus has occupied a deep corner in his head and heart.”

“Today, the kind of respect that Modiji has in the entire world and the recognition that India has gained under the leadership of Modiji … If no one, Rahul Gandhi should have at least listened to Italy’s Prime Minister and its leaders,” he added.

Dispensing with the long beard and white shirt that became his trademark look during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appeared last week looking sharp in a suit and trimmed beard ahead of his lecture at his alma mater Cambridge University.

Gandhi was set to deliver a student-only lecture at the university on “Learning to Listen in the 21st Century”. This is a part of his week-long tour in the United Kingdom, where he is also set to talk to diaspora groups.

Speaking at the [email protected] event at Cambridge University’s Corpus Christi College on May 23 last year, Rahul said, “My problem with the RSS and the Prime Minister is that they are fiddling with the foundational structure of India. When you play the politics of polarisation, when you isolate and demonise 200 million people, you are doing something extremely dangerous and you are doing something that is fundamentally against the idea of India.”

He also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of creating a vision of India that is not “inclusive”. He added, “I have studied Hinduism in enough detail to tell you that there’s absolutely nothing Hindu about wanting to murder people and beat people up.”

Six years earlier, he addressed a similar event – [email protected] – at University of California, Berkeley. In the speech, he said “hatred, anger and violence and the politics of polarisation had raised its ugly head in India today”, and liberal institutions were being eroded.

During his online interviews and interactions in March and April 2021 for different American universities, Rahul said the BJP and the RSS had captured India’s institutional framework. He spoke with Prof Kaushik Basu for Cornell University, Prof Ashutosh Varshney for Brown University, and US diplomat Nicholas Burns for Harvard.

“There is not a single institution that is not under attack and it is systematically done. The judiciary, the press, the bureaucracy, the Election Commission … every single institution is systematically being filled by people who have a particular ideology and belong to a certain institution … I would not say eroding, I would say strangling,” he said during one such interaction.

In his conversation with Basu, he said that even if the BJP were defeated, it would be hard to get rid of people in the “institutional structure”. Rahul told Varshney, “Even Saddam Hussain and Gaddafi used to have elections and win those, but there was no institutional framework to protect that vote.” He also said that electoral democracy can be “destroyed” in the 21st century if one can control social media and have financial dominance.  Speaking to students of IMT Business school in Dubai in January 2019, Gandhi said India’s “ethos” was built on “tolerance”.

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