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Rahul Gandhi Jail Sentence: What Are His Options Now? Will He Face Disqualification As MP?

SURAT: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was on Thursday convicted by a court in Gujarat’s Surat in a criminal defamation case filed against him over his alleged ‘why all thieves have Modi surname’ remarks made by him in 2019. The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma held Rahul Gandhi guilty under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace. Rahul Gandhi, currently the Congress MP from Wayanad, was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced. The court sentenced Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail but he has been released on bail so he can appeal the verdict.


What Options Does Rahul Gandhi Have After Conviction?


In view of his conviction in the case, the question being asked is what options Rahul Gandhi is left with now and whether he will face disqualification and lose his Lok Sabha membership. Social media is abuzz with questions if the Representation of People Act would be applicable to him or not. 

After Rahul Gandhi’s conviction, his party has said that its legal team will pursue the option of going to a higher court. The Surat court has also granted him time to file an appeal against the same. Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma, in his order, said that Rahil Gandhi can appeal against his conviction and sentencing within 30 days – implying that his Lok Sabha membership will remain intact for now until the higher court decides on the matter.

SC Ruling In Lily Thomas vs Union of India Case


It may be noted that the Supreme Court, in its verdict in 2013 in the Lily Thomas vs Union of India case, has said that lawmakers including MPs will immediately lose their membership if convicted for a minimum of two years. The top court also declared Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction. Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with defamations says, “whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine of both.”

Before the top court ruling came, convicted lawmakers continued to enjoy the same privileges as MPs or MLAs until they exhausted all their judicial remedies. In 2013, an attempt was made to overturn the decision of the Supreme Court, and The Representation of People (Second Amendment and Validation) Bill 2013 was tabled in the Rajya Sabha. 

The proposed amendment stated that representatives would not be disqualified immediately after conviction. The Congress-led UPA government unsuccessfully filed a review petition in the Supreme Court. Just days ahead of the fodder scam verdict, the government tried to bring a Bill into effect as an ordinance, however, the move was strongly resisted by Rahul Gandhi himself, who called it “complete nonsense.”

Ever since the verdict of the Supreme Court, 11 elected representatives have been disqualified after their conviction by courts. Pappu Kalani, Jagdish Sharma, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Rasheed Masood, Asha Rani, Enos Ekkka, Babanrao Galop, T M Selvaganapathy, Suresh Halvankar, Kamal Kishore and J Jayalalithaa are those who have been disqualified after their conviction by courts.

What Did Rahul Gandhi Actually Say?


Apparently taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress MP, while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, said, “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” Raising strong objections to his remarks, a case was filed against him by former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi. Rahul Gandhi was booked under Sections 499 and 500 (defamation). He had last appeared before the Surat court in October 2021 and record his statement.

Who Filed The Case Against Rahul Gandhi?


The case against Rahul Gandhi was filed under IPC sections 499, 500 (for criminal defamation), and 504 on a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi. These sections invite a jail term of up to two years or fine or both.

Who Is Purnesh Modi?


Purnesh Modi was a minister in the first tenure of the Bhupendra Patel government. He was re-elected from the Surat West Assembly seat in the December elections. In 2019, when Purnesh Modi filed the case against him,  Rahul Gandhi shrugged it off as a ‘desperate’ move by his political rivals to ‘silence’ him.

What Were the Arguments Of Rahul Gandhi’s Lawyer?


Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer has argued before the court that legal proceedings against his client were “flawed” from the beginning. The lawyer also argued that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and not MLA Purnesh Modi, should have been the complainant in the case because the PM was the main target of Gandhi’s speech.

The court concluded the final arguments from both sides and set March 23 as the date to pronounce its judgment in the four-year-old defamation case. Senior Congress leader and MLA Arjun Modhwadia said last week that the truth was being put to test and harassed. He claimed the BJP foisted false cases against Gandhi. 

Meanwhile, the ruling BJP has welcomed the conviction and sentencing of Rahul Gandhi in the Modi Surname case.

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