The Supreme Court, on Friday, issued a notice to Gujarat government on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against the Gujarat High Court verdict over his ‘Modi surname’ remark. The case was heard by a bench consisting of Justices BR Gavai and PK Mishra. The Gujarat HC had dismissed Gandhi’s plea seeking a stay on his conviction in a defamation case over the controversial ‘Modi’ remark.
The apex court has fixed August 4 as the next date of hearing in the case. A bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud had on July 18 agreed to hear Gandhi’s plea after senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi mentioned the matter and sought urgent hearing.
In his appeal, Gandhi had said if the July 7 HC judgment is not stayed, it will lead to “throttling of free speech, expression, thought, and statement”.
Purnesh Modi, a former minister in the Gujarat government, had filed a criminal defamation case in 2019 against Gandhi over his “how all thieves have Modi as the common surname” remark made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019. He was apparently referring to businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi, two fugitive prominent businessmen wanted in India.
Rahul Gandhi has said in his plea that an irreversible consequence of not staying the order will result in injustice as, because of the conviction, he currently stands disqualified as a Member of Parliament from Wayanad in Kerala and cannot participate in parliamentary proceedings.
The Congress leader was disqualified as an MP on March 24 (under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act), after a Gujarat court convicted and sentenced him to two-year imprisonment on the charge of criminal defamation for comments he made about the Modi surname.
In a setback to the 53-year-old Gandhi, the HC dismissed his petition for a stay on conviction on July 7, observing that “purity in politics” is the need of the hour.
A metropolitan magistrate’s court in Surat had on March 23 sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation). Gandhi challenged the order in a sessions court in Surat and filed an application seeking a stay on his conviction. While granting him bail, the Surat sessions court had on April 20 refused to stay the conviction, following which he approached the high court.