Setback To Rahul Gandhi, Surat Court Dismiss Plea

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Setback To Rahul Gandhi, Surat Court Dismiss Plea

| Updated: April 20, 2023 11:52

A Surat Court has dismissed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s plea for a stay on his conviction in a defamation case. The Congress will now be approaching the Gujarat High Court.

The Surat Court judge just uttered one word, “dismissed” in the Rahul Gandhi hearing on Thursday. This means, till the Gujarat High Court give its’ verdict, Rahul Gandhi will continue to remain disqualified.

The court of additional sessions judge Robin P Mogera rejected Rahul’s application filed for a relief pending his appeal against a lower court’s order sentencing him to two years in jail in the case.

A stay order could have paved the way for Rahul’s reinstatement as Member of Parliament (MP). The court of Additional Sessions Judge Mogera had on last Thursday reserved its verdict for April 20 on Rahul’s application for a stay on conviction pending his appeal against a lower court’s order sentencing him to two years in jail in the case.

Rahul had submitted that the trial court treated him harshly after being overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP. The 52-year-old politician was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, but was disqualified a day after a metropolitan magistrate court in Surat on March 23 sentenced him to two years in jail in the case filed by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.

On April 3, Rahul moved the sessions court against the lower court’s order. His lawyers also filed two applications, one for a stay on the sentence (or bail till the disposal of his appeal) and another for a stay on conviction till the disposal of the appeal.

While granting Rahul bail, the court issued notices to complainant Purnesh Modi and the state government on his plea for a stay on conviction. It heard both parties last Thursday and reserved the order for April 20.

Purnesh had filed a criminal defamation case against Rahul over his remarks, “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.

Arguing for Rahul for a stay on conviction, his lawyer had told the court that the trial in the case was “not fair” and there was no need for maximum punishment in the case.

In his submission, Rahul had said if the March 23 judgment of the trial court is not suspended and stayed, it will cause irreparable damage to his reputation.

He said the excessive sentence is contrary to the law on the subject and unwarranted in the present case which has overriding political overtones.

Rahul termed his conviction as “erroneous” and “patently perverse” and said the trial court treated him harshly after being overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.

The Congress leader said he was sentenced in a manner so as to attract the order of disqualification because the trial court was well aware of his status as a parliamentarian.

The bye-election once held in Rahul’s Lok Sabha constituency due to his disqualification cannot be undone if his conviction is not stayed even if the court subsequently acquits him, he said. Such an election will also cause irreparable loss to the state exchequer, he said.

Opposing his plea, MLA Modi had told the court that Rahul was a repeat offender with several criminal defamation proceedings against him going on in different courts across the country.

He said the way Rahul came to file his appeal showed “extraordinary arrogance” and “a very dirty display of childish arrogance and an immature act of bringing pressure upon the court”. Many Congress leaders had accompanied Rahul when he went to file his appeal.

He also accused Rahul of making “unfair and contemptuous comments” against the court through his aides, associates, and leaders of his party and others at his behest following his sentencing.

“The accused is in the habit of making such defamatory and irresponsible statements which may either defame others or may hurt the feelings of others, in the name of freedom of speech and political criticism and dissent,” Purnesh Modi stated in his affidavit.

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