Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has been sentenced to two years in jail in a defamation case filed against him by former Gujarat minister and BJP MLA from Surat West, Purnesh Modi. Gandhi made alleged defamatory remarks against Modi during a Lok Sabha election rally in Karnataka’s Kolar in 2019, where he asked, “Why all the thieves have Modi in their names, whether it be Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi?”
Gandhi was granted bail by the court and the order was stayed for a period of 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court. The case against Gandhi was lodged under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which pertain to defamation.
The order was pronounced by Chief Judicial Magistrate H H Verma in Surat. Gandhi was present inside the courtroom along with several national and state Congress leaders. The Surat police had increased security arrangements in the court campus to prevent untoward incidents.
While defence lawyer Kirit Pawala expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict, stating that some of their arguments were not taken into consideration, prosecution lawyer Kirit Reshamwala and MLA Purnesh Modi said they were “satisfied with the court order”. Modi, who belongs to the Modhwanik Ghanchi community that bears the Modi surname, said that the defamatory statements of Rahul Gandhi had hurt their sentiments.
The case against Gandhi has drawn attention for its political implications. The use of the surname “Modi” has become a sensitive issue in Indian politics, with many speculating that Rahul Gandhi was taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, this was denied by the Congress MP’s defence team.
This verdict is expected to have far-reaching political implications, particularly in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. It remains to be seen whether Gandhi will appeal against the verdict in a higher court or accept the sentence handed down by the Surat court. The Supreme Court may also weigh in on this matter in the coming days.