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Gujarat HC hears Rahul Gandhi’s plea in ‘Modi surname’ libel case today

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against his libel conviction over Modi’s ‘surname’ remark will be heard today (May 2) in the Gujarat High Court.

On April 25, Gandhi appealed to the Gujarat High Court against the verdict of the Surat Sessions Court which rejected his plea for a stay of his conviction in the 2019 criminal libel case over the comment ‘Modi surname’.

The former Congress party leader went to the Supreme Court after the Surat court rejected his plea for a stay of his conviction in the 2019 defamation case.

Judge Robin P Mogera of Extra Sessions had mentioned Gandhi’s standing as an MP and said he should have been more careful. Citing prima facie evidence and court observations, he said it appears that Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname to thieves.

Mogera said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. “… the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would surely have damaged his reputation and caused him pain and pain in the society,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi was a Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad but was disqualified after a lower court in Surat sentenced him to two years imprisonment on March 23 under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case brought by Purnesh Modi.

The case related to a comment Rahul Gandhi made using the surname ‘Modi’ at a campaign event ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Speaking at a rally at Kolar in Karnataka in April 2019, Rahul said during a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”.

After Surat court ruling, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a member of parliament. According to the Supreme Court ruling, any MP or MLA will be automatically disqualified if sentenced to two years or more.

Gandhi also left his bungalow at 12, Tughlaq Lane in Delhi after his disqualification from Lok Sabha and moved into his mother Sonia Gandhi’s residence.


Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.