SC issues notice on Rahul Gandhi’s plea against Gujarat HC order refusing to stay conviction in defamation case
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Gujarat government and the complainant on an appeal of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court order.
The Gujarat HC had earlier in its order declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case in which he was sentenced to two years in jail by the Surat court over 'Modi surname' remark. A bench headed by Justice BR Gavai granted ten days time to the parties to file their responses through affidavit. It has posted the matter for hearing on August 4 on the stay of his conviction.
During the hearing, Justice Gavai offered to recuse from the case saying his father and brother have an association with the Congress party.
However, both parties said they don’t have any objection to Justice Gavai hearing the matter.
After his conviction in the case, 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, 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 has said that 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 had convicted Gandhi for his remarks ahead of the 2019 national polls about the ‘Modi’ surname.
After a 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)