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'Modi' surname remark: SC issues notice on Rahul Gandhi’s plea, next hearing on August 4

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the Gujarat government and complainant on an appeal of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court order which declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case in which he was sentenced to two years in jail by Surat court over 'Modi surname' remark.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai and PK Mishra, issuing notice to the government and complainant Purnesh Ishwarbhai Modi, granted ten days time to them to file their responses through affidavit. It has posted the matter on the stay of his conviction for hearing on August 4. At the outset of the hearing, the lead judge of the bench Justice BR Gavai said his father was a politician and had been an MLA and MP with the support of the Congress party and had a close association for more than 40 years.
Justice Gavai offered to recuse from the case saying his father and brother have association with the Congress party.
“It is my duty to disclose. everyone should know. My father had been a politician and had been closely associated with Congress for more than four decades. Though he was not a Congress member, he was elected with the help of Congress. My brother is in active politics. If any party had an objection, then I would recuse,” Justice Gavai said.
However, both parties said they don’t have any objection to Justice Gavai hearing the matter.
During the brief hearing, Singhvi argued that Gandhi has already lost 111 days as an MP from the Wayanad constituency and apprehended that Election Commission may announce a bypoll soon in the constituency.
“He could not attend the last Parliament session and now stands to be out of ongoing session. Please consider granting an interim stay on conviction," Singhvi told the bench.
After his conviction in the case, Rahul Gandhi was declared disqualified as MP from Kerala’s Wayanad on March 24 following notification of the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
Gandhi was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment which disqualified him as an MP under the rigours of the Representation of People Act.
Approaching the top court, Gandhi also sought a stay of the Gujarat High Court verdict which upheld his conviction. He said the High Court verdict “has no parallel or precedent in the jurisprudence of the law of defamation”.
He contended that it was “not only curious but extremely significant, indeed sinister, that all earlier cases, including the one regarding the present speech, were filed by members and office bearers of the ruling party”.
It was submitted that the surname ‘Modi’, in different parts of the country, encompassed different communities and sub-communities, which usually have no commonality or uniformity at all. The Modi surname belonged to various castes.
The complainant, Gujarat BJP MLA Purnesh Ishwarbhai Modi who simply has a ‘Modi’ surname, did not prove that he was prejudiced or damaged in any specific or personal sense, the plea filed in the apex court added.
Gandhi’s plea said, “Unprecedentedly, in a case of criminal defamation, a maximum sentence of two years has been imposed. This itself is a rarest of rare occurrence.”
The High Court on July 7 affirmed the decision of a Gujarat Sessions court, which had refused to put on hold a magisterial court order on March 23 convicting Gandhi and handing out the maximum punishment provided for criminal defamation under the Indian Penal Code.
Rejecting Gandhi’s plea, the High Court said he has been seeking a stay on his conviction on “absolutely non-existent grounds” and a stay on conviction is not a rule but an exception.
In March, the magisterial court convicted Gandhi for his remarks ahead of the 2019 national polls about the ‘Modi’ surname.
After the magisterial court convicted Gandhi, he approached the Sessions court, which rejected his plea for a stay on his conviction on April 20. Thereafter, he approached the High Court.
Congress leader was sentenced to two years in jail on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case filed by Purnesh Modi.
At a rally in Karnataka's Kolar in April 2019, Rahul Gandhi, in a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, "How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?". (ANI)

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