In a massive setback for Rahul Gandhi, a court in Gujarat rejected his request to pause his conviction in a defamation case over his 2019 “Modi surname” remark. Criminal defamation law in India is tricky and not in the interest of people. Indian parliament should amend this law and make it relevant to the present day. His punishment is one of the more bizarre incidents. In India till date no one has ever been punished with the highest provision of 2 years for defamation. There is nothing to be surprised if the Surat Session court also upholds Rahul’s conviction, sending him to jail. The conviction of Rahul Gandhi must bring to the forefront the ridiculousness that is ‘criminal defamation’.
In some way the court found Rahul’s offence to be the rarest of the rare. We don’t even know what was the assessment of damage done to the aggrieved party/plaintiff? Generally, most defamation lawsuits result in punishment in tokenism or in financial compensation. In my view the severity of crime or quantum of punishment should have a direct correlation with the damage done tangible as well as intangible. Here in this case no tangible damage was done to Purnesh Modi, a BJP MLA who filed the case. Secondly in his lawsuit he claimed that Rahul hurt the sentiment of 13 crores Gujarati. How come the entire Gujarati community could be the aggrieved party? Incidentally Judge Robin Paul Mogera, who is hearing Rahul Gandhi’s appeal for staying his conviction in the Surat Session court in the Modi surname defamation case, was Union home minister Amit Shah’s lawyer in the 2006 Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case.
Many BJP followers are supporting the Emergency, and if that is the case, what they imposed on the emergency is wrong, and then the BJP is also doing wrong. When a person calls an Italian bar dancer in the media news, do the people accept it and not the statements of Rahul Gandhi? The main issue here is the hate that is broadcasted against Gandhi family is not allowing blind people to think of democratic values. Politics must have an edge and it should not be at the cost of people’s welfare.
No doubt that the ruling party is enjoying absolute majority, but does this mean that every person who has voted should support this absolute anarchy in the hands of the majority. If the wrong is done, it is the people who have to oppose it. Rahul Gandhi had requested that his conviction be paused pending his appeal against a court order sentencing him to two years in jail. The trial court, said the Congress leader, had treated him harshly, overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.
The judge also quoted the Supreme Court as saying that decisions to pause conviction should be exercised with caution and “not in a casual and mechanical manner… that will shake public confidence in the judiciary”. Public confidence is already shaken these days. I am not a Congress party or Rahul Gandhi supporter but somewhere I strongly feel, BJP should answer the questions raised by Rahul Gandhi instead of misusing power to put him behind jail.
Gandhi’s Lok Sabha seat Wayanad in Kerala is vacant and due for by-elections. Had that the court paused the conviction today, his disqualification as an MP could have been reversed. The Appellant was not an ordinary person and was a sitting MP, connected with public life.
The Congress leader argued that the sentence was excessive and contrary to law, and that if the order was not suspended, it would cause “irreparable damage” to his reputation. He also said he was sentenced in a way that he would be disqualified as a parliamentarian. Here we all should know the very purpose of all this drama was to disqualify him and choke his voice, so that he will be deterred from questioning. The Representation of the People Act, 1951 contains certain conditions under which a person is liable to be disqualified as an MP/MLA if he is convicted in any case with a sentence of 2 years or more. He will also be disallowed from contesting elections for a period of 6 years from his day of release (in this case, which would be 2 year’s sentence + 6 = 8 years from conviction). Post this sentence of 2 years, by law, he stands disqualified as an MP. This is the legal aspect and I feel that there has been no procedural discrepancy here.
The furore over this case is due to the fact that Rahul Gandhi is the leader of the opposition. Politics is playing its part here, propagating the possibility that the ruling party is trying to crush the opposition through constitutional bodies (the Surat Court, in this case). Secondly, there is the criticism of the judgement itself that has been unusually harsh.