Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, recently disqualified from the Parliament after being sentenced to two years in prison over a 2019 defamation case, will challenge his conviction and sentencing in the Surat sessions court on Monday. The former Congress president has, in his plea, requested the sessions court to set aside the Magistrate order convicting him in the defamation case. He also asked for an interim stay on the conviction till the matter is disposed off.
Rahul Gandhi was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to let him appeal the decision. However, he was quickly suspended by the Lok Sabha secretariat. Opposition leaders have questioned the “bullet train” speed with which action was taken against him.
Unless RaGa’s conviction is put on hold by a higher court, the Election Commission will announce a by-election for the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat. He also stands to be disallowed to contest elections for the next eight years.
The defamation case against him was filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi for remarking: “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?”
The former Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad made the remarks while addressing a rally in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, targeting PM Modi over his last name, which he shares with fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.
Significantly, Gandhi’s disqualification has brought together an otherwise fractured Opposition. Leaders from APP, TRS, RJD and TMC, to name a few, have attacked the BJP-ruled Centre for allegedly weaponising central investigative agencies and resorting to vengeful action against Opposition leaders.
Experts have opined that a two-year sentence in a criminal defamation case under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, under which RaGa has been convicted, is extremely rare.
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