Rahul Gandhi moves SC against Gujarat HC refusal to stay his conviction in defamation case
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A WEEK after the Gujarat High Court (HC) declined to stay his conviction in a criminal defamation case, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi filed an appeal in the Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday challenging the HC’s decision.
Identifying his comment as political satire, Rahul said not staying the HC order would lead to throttling of free speech, and set a wrong precedent.
In March, a Surat magisterial court had convicted and sentenced Rahul to two years in prison, finding him guilty of criminal defamation following a complaint filed by the BJP’s Surat West MLA, Purnesh Modi, who objected to Rahul’s remarks in Kolar in April 2019 – in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections – about thieves with the Modi surname.
Following his conviction, Rahul was disqualified from Lok Sabha where he represented the Wayanad constituency in Kerala.
On July 7, the Gujarat HC declined to stay Rahul’s conviction, making several observations including that “the offence committed by the accused falls in the category of moral turpitude” and that the “need of the hour” is to “have purity in politics”. Stating that Rahul was seeking a stay on his conviction “on absolutely non-existent grounds”, the HC upheld the April order of the Surat sessions court that declined to stay his conviction.
In his petition to the SC, Rahul said that not staying the HC order would contribute to the systematic and repetitive emasculation of democratic institutions and the consequent strangulation of democracy, which would be detrimental to the political climate and future of India.In Political Pulse | A look at 12 defamation cases against Rahul Gandhi as he suffers setback in Modi surname matter
He said his comment was at best political satire, where a linkage was sought to be established between economic offenders and people in powerful positions in the government.Advertisement
If any political speech which is critical of the government or any other political party, or involves a turn of phrase, becomes an act of moral turpitude, it would completely corrode the foundations of democracy, he said.
The plea said the evidence against Rahul was flimsy and makes out a good prima facie case for suspension of conviction. It said the order wrongly holds that an entire community had been defamed by his words.
The most important criterion of the offence of defamation, which is intention to defame, has not been proved, he said, adding that a political speech in the course of a democratic political activity, critical of economic offenders, has been held to be an act of moral turpitude, inviting the harshest punishment.Advertisement
This is gravely detrimental to democratic free speech and will set a disastrous precedent, wiping out any form of political dialogue or debate which is remotely critical in any manner, he said.Most Read 1 Gadar 2 box office collection day 4: Sunny Deol film records biggest Monday collections of all time, nets a total of Rs 173 cr 2 Bigg Boss OTT 2 Finale Live Updates: Elvish Yadav wins Salman Khan’s show, Abhishek Malhan shares message from hospital 3 Happy Independence Day 2023: Wishes Images, Whatsapp Messages, Status, Quotes, and Photos 4 OMG 2 box office collection day 4: Pankaj Tripathi-Akshay Kumar film delivers better Monday than opening Friday, earns Rs 55.1 cr 5 Jailer box office collection Day 5: Rajinikanth film set to cross Rs 350-crore mark worldwide on Independence Day
In his order, Justice Hemant Prachchhak said representatives of people should be men of “clear antecedent”. Rejecting Rahul’s argument that defamation did not amount to a serious offence like murder, Justice Prachchhak said, “The present conviction is a serious matter, affecting a large segment of the society and needs to be viewed by this Court with the gravity and significance it commands…”
According to the SC website, Rahul filed his appeal through advocate on-record Prasanna S.Also ReadNarendra Modi Independence Day Speech Live Updates: India now identified ...Govt SOP for Judges: Do not name officials for court panelsShivaji statue vandalised in Goa, police initiate inquiry‘Will return to Red Fort next year’: In Independence Day speech, PM Modi ...
On July 7 itself, BJP MLA Purnesh Modi had filed a caveat in the top court seeking to be heard if Rahul moved a plea challenging the HC verdict.
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