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HomeEditorialRahul Gandhi all set to return to Parliament

Rahul Gandhi all set to return to Parliament

While Gandhi’s comments were "not in good taste" and he "ought to have been more careful while making public speeches", the conviction not only punished Gandhi but also voters who had elected him to represent their constituency, said Justice Gavai.

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Finally, the Supreme Court suspended Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a criminal defamation case over his remarks on the ‘Modi’ surname. The order will allow him to return to parliament and contest national elections due next year. The trial judge has awarded the maximum sentence of two years in the case, the top court observed, pointing out that it would not have attracted disqualification if the sentence was a day lesser.

Gandhi was convicted in March in a case brought by Purnesh Modi, a legislator from the western state of Gujarat belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, over comments he made in 2019 when he asked why “all thieves have Modi as (their) common surname”. Lower courts and the high court in Gujarat – Modi’s home state where the BJP holds power – had rejected appeals by Gandhi to suspend the conviction, causing him to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court judge Justice B R Gavai said the lower court which sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail had not given any reasons for handing down the maximum sentence of two years which led to his disqualification from parliament. While Gandhi’s comments were “not in good taste” and he “ought to have been more careful while making public speeches”, the conviction not only punished Gandhi but also voters who had elected him to represent their constituency, said Gavai, who headed a bench of three judges which suspended the conviction.

Rahul Gandhi has begun to attack Adani directly. If he does not stop, it would have created a lot of headaches for Modi and BJP, they actually needed to clutch him and his statement was used as a tool. In the parliament, Rahul Gandhi had asked questions about Adani’s role. BJP went to the trouble of obliterating a major part of his speech. In response the Prime Minister did not take the name of Adani even once. There are some people who are saying that he insulted the whole “Modi” caste and all OBCs. It is quite obvious that his only target was Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi. Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi are not even OBCs.

This entire saga was politically motivated vendetta. What was wrong in his statement, Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi has of course looted our country, so if that is applied, then there are many thieves who have that surname and does it mean that Modi’s surname is defamed. When a person calls an Italian bar dancer in the media news, the people accept it and not the statements of Rahul Gandhi, are we not biased? If loose talks by Subramanian Swamy and BJP leaders about Gandhi family are entertained, why take objection to Rahul Gandhi? Well, the supreme court has not only given relief to Rahul Gandhi but also given some assurance to people that justice is delivered.

The problem with the criminal defamation law in India is that it is outdated. People need to think about the purpose of this law. Whom does it help? Who gets affected? India has a particularly strict criminal defamation law compared to many other democracies. In India, defamation is a criminal offence that can result in imprisonment and fines. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) includes defamation as an offence under Section 499, which defines defamation as any imputation that harms a person’s reputation.

Whereas in many other democracies, defamation is primarily a civil matter, meaning that it is addressed through civil lawsuits rather than criminal charges. In countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, for example, defamation can be the basis for a civil lawsuit, but it is not typically a criminal offence. Even in countries where criminal defamation laws do exist, the penalties may not be as severe as those in India. For example, in France, criminal defamation can result in fines and imprisonment, but the maximum sentence is typically shorter than in India, and imprisonment is typically not mandatory.

Overall, the criminal defamation law in India is among the strictest in the world, and there have been concerns raised about the law’s impact on freedom of speech and expression. Some have called for reform of the law to make it more in line with international standards of freedom of expression. The number of instances in which this law has been used as a tool to harass and intimidate journalists, whistle-blowers and activists, are too many. If we look at previous such cases like Arvind Kejriwal vs. Nitin Gadkari: In 2013, Maneka Gandhi vs. Indira Gandhi: In 1977, MG Devasahayam vs. M Karunanidhi: In 1992, Jay Amit Shah vs. The Wire: In 2017. All these cases are different from each other under defamation but none of these leaders were banned or barred from their rights and duties. In Rahul Gandhi’s case it was an extreme sentence of disqualification. This law needs to be revisited, and discussed, in any case, it must be limited only to civil courts, not worth being treated as a criminal offence.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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