SC levies Rs 1L cost on lawyer for PIL against Rahul’s LS membership restoration

In August last year, the Supreme Court stayed the conviction of Gandhi in the ‘Modi surname' defamation case, which had cost him his Lok Sabha membership.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday imposed an exemplary cost of Rs 1 lakh on a Lucknow-based lawyer for filing a “frivolous” PIL challenging the restoration of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership.

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A bench presided over by Justice B.R. Gavai said that filing of such frivolous petitions not only wastes precious time of the court but also that of the entire Supreme Court registry.

The bench, also comprising Justice Sandeep Mehta, noted that the matter has been adjourned twice in the past at the instance of petitioner Ashok Pandey.

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In his plea, Pandey contended that once a member of Parliament or a state legislature loses his office by operation of law, he will continue to be disqualified till he is acquitted from the charges levelled against him.

He prayed the Constitution Bench to decide as to whether on the basis of a stay of conviction, a person who has suffered disqualification by operation of law, will become qualified to be chosen as or for being, a member of Parliament or state legislature.

In August last year, the Supreme Court stayed the conviction of Gandhi in the ‘Modi surname’ defamation case, which had cost him his Lok Sabha membership, saying that no reasons were given by the trial judge for imposing the maximum punishment of two years in the case.

Following the apex court’s stay order, the Lok Sabha Secretariat restored his membership in Parliament on August 7, 2023.

Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as an MP in March 2023 after a Surat court convicted him and sentenced him to two years in prison for his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname” remark made during an election rally in Karnataka in April 2019.

His remark was interpreted as an attempt to draw an implicit connection between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.

It may be recalled that Justice Gavai-led bench in October 2023 had imposed a costs of Rs 1 lakh on Pandey for filing a similar plea against restoration of Lok Sabha membership of Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal.

“You are an advocate and filing such frivolous petitions. You should think ten times before filing such petitions,” Justice Gavai had remarked.

The same advocate was also reprimanded by a bench headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud with a cost of Rs 5 lakh for filing a petition against the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court for allegedly not using ‘I’ while being administered oath.

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