The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the conviction of Congress leader and former Member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi in the criminal defamation case over the "why all thieves have Modi surname" remark. With the stay of his conviction, Rahul Gandhi's disqualification as MP also now remains in abeyance.
The apex court noted that the trial judge has awarded the maximum sentence of two years in the case and that it would have attracted disqualification if the sentence was a day lesser.
In April, Rahul Gandhi had also told a sessions court in Surat that his conviction by a magistrate’s court in the 2019 defamation case was erroneous, patently perverse, and he was sentenced in a manner so as to attract disqualification as a Member of Parliament.
He said that he was treated harshly by the trial court, which was “overwhelmingly influenced” by his status as an MP.
The SC said today that there was no doubt that the utterances by the petitioner were not in good taste “and the petitioner ought to have been more careful in making speeches”.
It said, “The ramifications of disqualification not just affect the right of the individual but also the electorate.”
This is the last chance for Rahul Gandhi to get acquittal in order to attend the Parliament and contest elections, argued his lawyer in the court, adding that the High Court had reserved its judgement for 66 days, and due conviction in the case, Gandhi has already lost two Parliament sessions.
An SC Bench comprising of justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha and Sanjay Kumar heard Rahul Gandhi’s plea for a stay on his conviction. The Gujarat HC had earlier refused to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing Rahul Gandhi, said that the trial has been completed, and Gandhi has even been convicted, yet there is no evidence so far. He said that this the first time 30 crore people have held to be an identifiable class.
"They are amorphous, non-homogenous...communities, castes, and groups with appellation 'Modi' are totally different," he said.