By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2023-03-23 10:21:42
A Surat court has sentenced Rahul Gandhi to 2 years in prison in a criminal defamation case dating back to 2019. Campaigning for the 2019 general elections, the Congress leader (then the president of the party) had said 'why do all thieves have Modi as their surname'. While he was ostensibly referring to Narendra Modi (whom he had also accused of being thief by coining the slogan "chowkidar chor hai"), Neerav Modi (the diamond merchant who had fled the country after defrauding banks) and Lalit Modi (the architect of the IPL who was accused of swindling funds by the BCCI), he unwittingly also defamed and angered lakhs of people whose surname is Modi. This correspondent has written then that Rahul Gandhi must apologize to the countless Modis he had offended but he did not. The case against Gandhi was filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.
Rahul Gandhi, who was present in the Surat court, was granted bail by the court which suspended the punishment and allowed him 30 days to appeal in a higher court. As per the law, MPs and MLAs can be disqualified from membership of the legislative house if they are sentenced to two years or more in a criminal case. But such disqualification does not kick off immediately on pronouncement of the judgment in case of sitting members. They have three months to appeal and the disqualification (for a period equal to the sentence and six more years) will be applicable if the appeal goes against them. It is obvious that Rahul Gandhi will appeal against the sentence and the matter will finally reach the Supreme Court.
While the BJP welcomed the verdict and charged Gandhi with defaming an entire community, Congress workers protested at many places in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country. The Congress said that Gandhi will file an appeal against the verdict.