‘Modi surname’ case: Rahul moves Guj HC against sessions court verdict

A Surat court on April 20 rejected Rahul Gandhi's plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case.

Ahmedabad: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has moved the Gujarat High Court challenging the Surat Sessions court verdict that rejected his plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case over the ‘Modi surname’ remark.

The hearing in the case is likely this week.

A Surat court on April 20 rejected Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case.

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The Congress had said that Rahul Gandhi will move the High Court against the verdict.

In his judgement, Additional sessions judge Robin P Mogera had cited Gandhi’s stature as an MP and former chief of the country’s second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful. He cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname with thieves.

Mogera said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. “…the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society,” he said.

Mogera cited the disqualification criteria under the Representation of the People Act and added that removal or disqualification as MP could not be termed irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to Gandhi.

Earlier on April 3, the Sessions Court granted bail to the Congress leader.

While granting bail to the former MP, the court had issued notices to Purnesh Modi and the state government.

It heard both parties and then reserved the order for April 20.

Rahul Gandhi was a Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad but was disqualified after a lower court in Surat sentenced him to two years in jail on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case filed by Purnesh Modi.

The case pertained to a remark Rahul Gandhi made using the surname ‘Modi’ while addressing a campaign event ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

At a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar in April 2019, Rahul, in a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”.

Following his conviction, Rahul was disqualified as an MP on March 24, as per a Supreme Court ruling in 2013. Under the ruling, any MP or MLA is automatically disqualified if convicted and sentenced to two years or more.

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