The Congress leader is expelled from Parliament after a Surat court sentences him to two years imprisonment in a defamation case. The verdict opens a slugfest between the Congress and BJP. What is next for the Gandhi scion?
In a major development Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified as a Member of Lok Sabha (MP) from the date of his conviction in the criminal defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark, March 23.
Rahul Gandhi was an MP from the seat of Wayanad in Kerala. This comes after the Surat court on Thursday, sentenced Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years imprisonment in a defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark made in 2019 during an election rally in Karnataka.
Rahul Gandhi made the “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname” remark in April 2019, at a Lok Sabha election rally at Kolar in Karnataka.
The criminal defamation case against Rahul Gandhi was filed by BJP MLA from Surat West Purnesh Modi.
Reacting to his disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said he was fighting to restore the country’s voice and will pay any price to do so.
“I am fighting for the voice of India and am ready to pay any price (for it),” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi. His tweet followed his disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP earlier on Friday. The disqualification came in the wake of Rahul’s conviction by a Surat court in a 2019 defamation case on Thursday.
The disqualified Congress MP was sentenced to two years in prison following his conviction for a remark using the surname ‘Modi’ at a campaign event for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in Karnataka.
However, the court later approved his bail on a surety of Rs 15,000 while suspending his sentence for a period of 30 days during which he can challenge his conviction at a higher court.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Friday came down heavily on the Centre over Rahul’s disqualification as a Lok Sabha member, calling it a “strangulation of democracy” while exuding confidence that the disqualification will be revoked through a stay on his conviction by a higher court.
The party alleged that Rahul’s disqualification is part of a “pattern” to stop him from speaking out against the Central government and also an attempt to divert public attention from real issues.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in the national capital, Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi and senior leader Jairam Ramesh lashed out at the Centre over the disqualification of the former national party president.
Earlier on Thursday, in a dramatic judgment, a Surat court had sentenced Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years imprisonment in a defamation case filed against him over his ‘Modi surname’ remark made in 2019 during an election rally for Lok Sabha elections.
The court approved Rahul Gandhi’s bail on a surety and stayed the sentence for 30 days to allow him to approach the higher courts. While the BJP leaders attacked Rahul Gandhi after the verdict saying whatever he speaks it affects the Congress party and the country in a negative way, Congress leaders said that an attempt was being made by the BJP government to suppress the voice of Rahul Gandhi and that he will move the higher courts against the verdict. Congress leaders also alleged that judiciary is under pressure.
Some Congress leaders, including party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, referred to change of judge in the case. The criminal defamation case against Rahul Gandhi was filed by BJP MLA from Surat West Purnesh Modi. It relates to Rahul Gandhi’s alleged remarks “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname” made in April, 2019, at a Lok Sabha election rally at Kolar in Karnataka.
Last week, the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma concluded hearing final arguments from both sides and set March 23 to pronounce its judgment in the four-year-old defamation case. Rahul Gandhi, MP from Wayanad, was present inside the courtroom along with Congress leaders. Purnesh Modi, who is a former Gujarat Minister, welcomed the court judgement. “I welcome the judgement of the court,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi quoted Mahatma Gandhi after the court pronounced him guilty. “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it- Mahatma Gandhi,” Rahul Gandhi posted on his Twitter account. The Congress MP was today sentenced to two years in jail by the Surat district court which granted him bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to let him appeal the court verdict. The Congress leader was present in court while the court pronounced the judgement.
Congress president and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said that it will fight the judgement as per law. “He has been granted bail. We knew from the beginning because they kept changing judges. We believe in law, judiciary and we will fight against this as per law,” said Kharge.
Rahul Gandhi’s conviction led to a war of words between the BJP and Congress. Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that Rahul Gandhi damages his own party with his remarks. “I’ll see the details of the order before I say anything. Whatever Rahul Gandhi speaks it always affects Congress party and the entire nation in a negative way. Some Congress MPs told me that because of his attitude, Congress is suffering,” Rijiju said.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that there is punishment for irrelevant accusations in the legal system. “Rahul Gandhi should accept this truth. Words are deadlier than weapons. There are provisions of punishment for those who level irrelevant accusations in the legal system. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi should take a lesson from this,” Rajnath Singh said.
But Congress leaders came out in support of Rahul Gandhi, attacked the government and said they will not come under any pressure. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said there is an attempt to suppress the media. “There is an attempt to influence the judiciary. They (the BJP-led government) are taking action against the people of different political parties,” he said.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said her Rahul Gandhi is not afraid and will keep speaking the truth. “The entire scared machinery of power is trying to suppress the voice of Rahul Gandhi through ‘saam, daam, dand, bhed’. My brother has never been afraid, nor will he ever be. He has lived speaking the truth, will continue to speak the truth,” she said.
Cases after cases
Here is a look at the (defamation) cases he is facing across the country.
1. ‘Modi surname’ remark:
Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to 2-year imprisonment in the defamation case on March 23, 2023, and was later granted bail on a surety of Rs 15,000. The court stayed the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in the higher courts.
2. National Herald case:
Among the well-known cases against Rahul Gandhi is the National Herald case in which he and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi were granted bail in December 2015. The case was pursued by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
3. Defamation case in Patna:
Rahul Gandhi was granted bail by a Patna court in another defamation case on July 6, 2019. The case was filed by BJP leader and former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi for his “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname” remark.
4. Defamation case in Ahmedabad:
The Congress leader was granted bail by a court in Ahmedabad in a defamation case on July 12, 2019. The case was filed by the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank following Gandhi’s allegation that the bank was involved in a scam of swapping banknotes during the demonetization.
5. Defamation case in Mumbai:
Gandhi was granted bail by a Mumbai court on July 4, 2019, in a case filed by a Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker for his alleged remark linking Gauri Lankesh’s killing with the “BJP-RSS ideology”. The court had granted Gandhi bail on a surety amount of Rs 15,000.
6. Maharashtra case:
Bhiwandi court in Maharashtra had granted Gandhi bail on November 2016 in a case filed by an RSS worker for allegedly accusing the organization of killing MK Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi had allegedly said that RSS killed Gandhi. He had made these remarks during a Thane rally in March 2014.
7. Guwahati case:
Guwahati court had granted bail to Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case by RSS in September 2016. The case was filed after Rahul had claimed that he was barred by the RSS from entering the Barpeta temple in Assam in December 2015.