One word is what Surat Court used while rejecting Rahul Gandhi’s Plea.
There were no sentences spoken. Additional Session Judge R P Mogera simply said “dismissed” while doing away with a petition in which Congress leader Rahul Gandhi sought a stay on his conviction. A Surat court had earlier disqualified Gandhi as an MP.
In a jam-packed court, the judge simply said dismissed and the matter was over. Rahul Gandhi, unlike the past hearing on April 13, did not remain present today. The Congress will now approach the Gujarat High Court.
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi will talk on the issue at 4 pm in New Delhi today.
Additional Sessions Judge Mogera’s dismissal of Rahul Gandhi’s plea is a setback for the Congress leader. Senior BJP leader and MLA Purnesh Modi who is also a former minister had filed a criminal defamation case against Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi was convicted by a Magistrate court in Surat on March 23 for his remark “Why do all thieves have Modi surname” which he had made at an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka in 2019.
Today’s court verdict means Rahul Gandhi would continue to stand disqualified from Lok Sabha. Before his conviction following which he was disqualified, Gandhi was the Wayanad MP from Kerala.
Rahul Gandhi had made a remark on the Modi surname in Karnataka. This was in 2019. In March 2023, Gandhi was convicted by a magistrate court on a complaint filed by BJP leader Purnesh Modi, who claimed that the Congress leader through his remark defamed the entire Modi community.
Gandhi had said in his speech,
“Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. How come all thieves have Modi as their surname”?
Magistrate Hadirash Varma had convicted Gandhi for criminal defamation and even sentenced him to two years imprisonment. Rahul Gandhi secured bail for this. And had then filed an appeal.
The judge had observed that Rahul Gandhi, through his statement, had insulted all persons with the Modi surname for his political interest.
As a result of his conviction, Gandhi was disqualified as a Member of Parliament.
Later, Rahul Gandhi moved the Surat Sessions Court, challenging his conviction, through senior advocate R S Cheema and Surat-based advocates Kirit Panwala and Tarannum Cheema.
Gandhi’s Side of the Story
According to Advocate Cheema who appeared for Rahul Gandhi on April 13, his client’s speech needed to be analysed contextually to ascertain whether there was any intent on the part of the speaker to defame the group of persons with the surname Modi.
“My speech isn’t defamatory unless drawn out of context, looked under a magnifying glass to create or to make it defamatory,” Cheema had emphasised. Advocate Cheema had contested and said that instant legal action was nothing but an outcome of standing up against Modi and speaking up critically against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Basically a litigation was inflicted upon me for daring to be vociferously critical about our PM. Trial was harsh and unfair to me,” Cheema had told the Court. Rahul Gandhi had remained present in the Court. Advocate Cheema had also questioned BJP leader Purnesh Modi’s claim that nearly 13 crore people with Modi surname had been insulted with Rahul Gandhi’s childish attacks on PM Modi. humiliated and defamed because of Rahul Gandhi’s statement. Cheema had said Gujarat did not have 13 Crore Modis as the population was only six crores. Purnesh Modi’s claim was that people with the surname Modi all across India and abroad were defamed by Rahul Gandhi’s snide remark on the surname.“It is claimed there are 13 crore Modis across India. I find it mind boggling that a populace of that figure would be categorised as ‘collection of persons’. Gujarat’s population was nearly 6 crore in 2011,” Cheema had said.
It is interesting to note that the trial court had pronounced Rahul Gandhi guilty and sentenced him the maximum punishment available in this offence, immediately after the conviction on the grounds that by doing this to a Member of Parliament, a message can be sent to the larger society. Interestingly, if the lower court had given a single day less punishment than two years, Rahul Gandhi would not have been disqualified.
Purnesh Modi, the Complainant’s side of the story
Representing BJP leader Purnesh Modi, his advocate Tolia argued that just because Rahul Gandhi had been disqualified and had lost his job, there was no ground for the court to exercise extraordinary and discretionary powers to suspend the sentence.
Tolia dwelt liberally on what he described as Rahul Gandhi’s arrogance sand his refusal to apologise for using the Modi reference in a derogatory manner. “Gandhi’s conduct deserves no sympathy and his sentence shouldn’t be suspended. He isn’t saying sorry. This is his arrogance; he can’t say sorry. He is such a tall leader. Such a big personality, he can’t say sorry but only shows arrogance. He isn’t entitled to any relief at this stage,” Advocate Tolia had said.
Rahul Gandhi coming to Surat to file his appeal, with an army of Congress leaders and workers also had become an issue of contention for Purnesh Modi and advocate Tolia. Actually, Rahul Gandhi’s presence was not necessary as per the rules.
Advocate Tolia had submitted, “(Rahul Gandhi)has brought so many legislators to the Court. They are showing the public that yes we are legislators and we are supporting our leader. Legislators must understand that they are first the servants of the public then their party and then their leader. If you want to support your leader and stand in solidarity with him then better resign from your post and then support him everywhere.”In his speech, he spoke of PM Modi but didn’t stop there and went beyond it. He said, ‘Saare choron ka naam Modi Modi Modi hi kyu hai? Dhoondo aur bhi Modi milenge’. My client is hurt by this part of the speech thus the complaint,” Tolia had categorically told the Surat Court demanding maximum punishment for his (Rahul’s) arrogance and derogatory statements.
“First is he was conscious as he was addressing the rally. He addressed PM Modi and was so childish that he wasn’t aware that referring to the Modi surname would mean all the Modis?” Tolia emphasised. “Suppose one doctor is convicted, the medical council will act against him. If a lawyer commits a misconduct his Sanad will go. Similarly, if an MP is convicted he will be disqualified. What is so special or exceptional in this case,” Tolia had asked, arguing why a MP should not be let away easily by the Court and that no special treatment should be meted out to him. Purnesh Modi, the complainant has stated in his affidavit that the accused (Rahul Gandhi) is in the habit of making such defamatory and irresponsible statements in the name of freedom of speech. political criticism and dissent.
(this was first published on www.vibesofindia.com)