New Delhi: While the Supreme Court observed that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s utterances were “not in good taste, a three-judge bench of Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha, and Sanjay Kumar stayed his conviction by a Surat trial court in the criminal defamation case over the “why all thieves have Modi surname” remark.
With the stay of his conviction, Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as MP also now remains in abeyance.
As the Supreme Court bench heard Rahul Gandhi’s plea challenging the Gujarat High Court’s refusal to stay his conviction which resulted in his disqualification from the Lok Sabha, it observed in its order that the trial court judge offered no reason other than an admonition to the petitioner (Rahul) in the contempt proceedings while imposing the maximum sentence of two years.
The trial judge, in his order, had awarded the maximum sentence of two years to Rahul for an offence punishable under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.
“Particularly when the offence was non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable, the least which was expected from the learned trial judge was to give reasons for imposing the maximum punishment. Though the learned appellate court and the High Court have spent voluminous pages in rejecting the applications, these aspects are not seen considered,” the SC bench observed.
The bench while passing the order noted that it was only on account of the maximum sentence of two years imposed by the trial judge that the provisions of Section 8(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act came into play, leading to Rahul’s disqualification as a Member of Parliament. “Had the sentence been a day lesser, then the provisions would not have been attracted,” the bench said.
Rahul tweeted, “Come what may, my duty remains the same. Protect the idea of India.”
Come what may, my duty remains the same.
Protect the idea of India.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 4, 2023
It may be recalled that the Supreme Court issued notice in the Congress leader’s plea on July 21, 2023.
Responding to the apex court order, the Congress Party General Secretary in charge of Communications, Jairam Ramesh, hailed the judgment as “a strong vindication of truth and justice”. He tweeted that despite the relentless efforts of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s machinery, Rahul Gandhi “refused to bend, break or bow, choosing instead to place his faith in the judicial process”. He added: “Let this be a lesson to the BJP and its acolytes: you can do your absolute worst but we will not back down. We will continue to expose and call out your failures as a Government and as a party. We will continue to uphold our Constitutional ideals and repose faith in our institutions which you so desperately want to destroy. Satyameva Jayate!”
In-charge of Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Information and Technology Department, Amit Malviya, however, took a jibe at Rahul, tweeting that”Rahul Gandhi is on thin ice here. But for now, the Parliament can do with some levity”. He reminded that there were several other criminal defamation cases pending against Rahul, “including the high-profile case of mudslinging the venerable Veer Savarkar, filed by the freedom fighter’s family”. He further pointed out that Rahul is also an accused, along with his mother Sonia Gandhi, in the National Herald scam, and is currently out on bail. “Conviction in any of these can lead to his disqualification, again,” he tweeted.
However, the Supreme Court’s order is being cheered by the Opposition leaders across different political parties who recently formed the coalition, INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance). The Trinamul Congress Party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that she was happy with the news about the MP-ship of Rahul and stated that this will further “strengthen the resolve of the INDIA alliance to unitedly fight for our motherland and win”. She hailed the order as a victory of the judiciary.
The Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too welcomed the Supreme Court’s “intervention in an unjust defamation case” against Rahul. “It reinforces people’s trust in Indian democracy and the judicial system. Congratulations to him and to the people of Wayanad [Rahul’s parliamentary constituency],” he tweeted.
– global bihari bureau