In another setback for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the Gujarat High Court today refused to grant an interim stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark in which he was sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat court. The court will give an order on his petition post summer vacation.
The former Congress president had sought an interim stay of the conviction till the High Court pronounced the order on his petition.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the lawyer for Mr Gandhi, cited “extreme urgency” to request from the court for an interim or a final order after arguments from both sides in the matter concluded during the day. However, the court of Justice Hemant Prachchhak said no interim protection can be granted at this stage.
Justice Prachchhak said he will pass a final order only after going through the records and proceedings, and posted the matter for verdict after reopening of the High Court post-summer vacation, which will be from May 8 to June 3.
Rahul Gandhi, who represented Wayanad parliament constituency in Kerala, was sentenced to two years in jail after he was convicted on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code for criminal defamation in the case filed by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi.
The BJP MLA’s case against Mr Gandhi was over his “how come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remark made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.
The two-year jail term resulted in him being disqualified as a Member of Parliament. The law states that if a member is convicted of any offence for two or more years, his or her seat will be declared vacant. One can only stay in the parliament if the conviction is suspended.
The senior Congress leader vacated his official residence, which he had since 2005, last month after losing his MP status..
During an earlier hearing on April 29, Mr Gandhi’s lawyer had argued that a maximum punishment of two years for a bailable, non-cognisable offence meant he could lose his Lok Sabha seat “permanently and irreversibly”, which was a “very serious additional irreversible consequence to the person and the constituency he represents”.
The alleged offence was non-serious in nature and did not involve moral turpitude, and yet Mr Gandhi’s disqualification, because of not staying his conviction, would affect him as well as the people of his constituency, he had said.
On April 3, Mr Gandhi’s lawyer approached the sessions court with two applications, one for bail and another for a stay on conviction pending his appeal, along with his main appeal against the lower court’s order sentencing him to two years in jail.
While the court granted his bail, it rejected his plea for a stay on conviction. He was also given 30 days to file an appeal.
Last Wednesday, Justice Gita Gopi of the Gujarat High Court recused herself from hearing the case after it was presented before her for an urgent hearing. The matter was then assigned to Justice Prachchhak.