AHMEDABAD, India, March 23 (Reuters) – A decrease court docket in India sentenced opposition chief Rahul Gandhi on Thursday to 2 years in jail on expenses of defamation for a 2019 speech by which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi.
Gandhi will enchantment towards the order in the next court docket, however any jailing for him or his disqualification from parliament could be a blow to his Congress occasion forward of the 2024 normal election, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s occasion is extensively anticipated to win.
The judgment was handed by a Justice of the Peace’s court docket within the metropolis of Surat, positioned in Modi’s dwelling state of Gujarat. The case was introduced by a Gujarat lawmaker from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Social gathering (BJP).
Gandhi, the 52-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, was current on the Surat court docket, which gave him bail instantly and suspended the sentence for a month.
“Accused Rahul Gandhi is held responsible … and sentenced to 2 years easy imprisonment,” Harish Varma, the chief judicial Justice of the Peace of Surat, mentioned in his order.
Ketan Reshamwala, an advocate for complainant Purnesh Modi, mentioned the court docket had discovered Gandhi’s remark defamatory.
An adviser to the federal authorities, Kanchan Gupta, mentioned Gandhi may face instant disqualification from parliament following the conviction, in step with a 2013 order of the nation’s highest court docket.
Congress spokesperson and prime lawyer Abhishek Singhvi informed a information convention that the occasion feared Gandhi might be disqualified.
“The disqualification difficulty relies on the keep of conviction,” he mentioned.
“Any cheap system, any cheap, truthful, non-oppressive, non-biased system would give enough time to an individual to take some authorized steps to remain the conviction,” he mentioned.
Within the speech forward of the final normal election in 2019, Gandhi referred to the prime minister and two fugitive Indian businessmen, all surnamed Modi, whereas speaking about alleged high-level corruption within the nation.
On Thursday, Gandhi, a former Congress president who’s presently an influential MP, informed the court docket that his remark was not towards any group.
Congress members rallied behind Gandhi, with many state items planning protests later within the day and on Friday.
“The Modi authorities is a sufferer of political chapter”, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge mentioned on Twitter. “We are going to enchantment within the greater court docket.”
Gandhi additionally acquired help from the Aam Aadmi Social gathering (AAP) that guidelines Delhi and two of whose prime leaders are in jail on what they name trumped-up expenses.
“We now have variations with the Congress, however it’s not proper to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this. It’s the job of the general public and the opposition to ask questions. We respect the court docket however disagree with the choice,” AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.
Gandhi’s once-dominant Congress controls lower than 10% of the elected seats in parliament’s decrease home and misplaced badly to the BJP within the final two normal elections.
Modi stays India’s hottest politician by a considerable margin and polls present he’s anticipated to win a 3rd victory on the election subsequent yr.
Not like in lots of international locations, the place defamation is a civil offence, Indian legislation additionally has provisions which classify it as a prison offence punishable with a jail time period of as much as two years.
Reporting by Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad and Arpan Chaturvedi and Y.P. Rajesh in New Delhi; Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Krishna N. Das; Modifying by Raju Gopalakrishnan, William Maclean
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