Written by: Ishita Shukla
Intern, Vidhi Parivartan
On 23rd March 2023, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress MP from Wayanad, was notably convicted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Surat, Mr. HH Varma, for criminal defamation against the Modi surname. He has been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two years following the conviction in the case of defamation, under Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which deals with criminal defamation and the punishment for it.The complaint was filed by Mr. Purnesh Modi, an MLA of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and a former minister of Gujarat following the remarks made by Rahul Gandhi in April 2019 during a political campaign in Karol. After the conviction order was passed, Rahul Gandhi on 24th of March was disqualified from the position of MP in Lok Sabha under Article 102(1)(e) of the Indian Constitution read with Section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act,1951. To challenge his conviction of the defamation case, he has appealed to the Surat Sessions Court. His claim for a suspension of conviction is still pending, even though his sentence was already suspended while the appeal was pending.
1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
The conviction of Rahul Gandhi in the defamation case was made on the grounds of the speech and remarks made by Rahul Gandhi while addressing the rally at Kolar on 13th of April 2019. He was addressing the gathering ahead of the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 where he made the remarks against the Modi surname while delivering his speech. In his address, he was criticizing the policies made by the Modi Government and how they have not been able to fulfill their promises. He said in his speech, “Modi, Modi, Modi…, Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi, and if you search a little more, bahut saare Modi nikalenge…how come they all have Modi as a common surname? How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” Following tis statement made by Rahul Gandhi, the MLA of BJP, Mr. Purnesh Modi filed a case of criminal defamation against Rahul Gandhi. He stated that the speech made by him has defamed the whole Modi community including the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. The final verdict of this case was passed on 23rd March wherein Rahul Gandhi was convicted of the offence and punished with imprisonment of two years under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC. An appeal was filed against the orders passed by the magistrate court in the Sessions Court of Surat, the hearing for which was scheduled on 13th April 2023.
1.3 THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE APPEAL
After the conviction order was passed by the magistrate court, Gandhi moved the Sessions Court of Surat and filed an appeal where his case was argued by Senior Advocate RS Cheema, Advocate Tarannum Cheema, Advocate Kiriti Panwala. They argued that the trial was not fair and there was no need for maximum punishment in this case. The complaint should have been filed by Narendra Modi and not Purnesh Modi. However, the lawyer of the complainant, Advocate Harshit Toliya argued that the remarks made by Rahul Gandhi were offending in nature and it hurt the sentiments of his client including everyone else from the Modi community which includes the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi also.
The verdict given by the Magistrate Court was challenged in the Sessions Court which was heard by Judge Robin Mogera on 13th April 2023. Judge Robin Mogera closed the proceedings of the court by stating that the order for the interim application filed by Rahul Gandhi shall be given on 20th April 2023. Both parties are awaiting the orders to be passed in the case.