Social Navigation

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi gets 2 years in prison for comment by Narendra Modi


NEW DELHI — An Indian court on Thursday found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation for his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname and sentenced him to two years in prison.

The case against Gandhi dates back to a campaign rally in 2019 where he said: ‘Why do all the thieves have Modi as their surname?’ In his speech, he went on to name runaway Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi.

Narendra Modi is not related to either of the other two.

The defamation case against Gandhi was filed by a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party in the western state of Gujarat. The plaintiff, Purnesh Modi, said Gandhi’s comments had “vilified the entire Modi community”.

Modi is a common surname in Gujarat.

Gandhi, who was present in court when the verdict was announced, said his remarks were intended to highlight corruption and were not directed against any community. He will not go to jail immediately as the court granted 30 days bail to appeal the verdict.

Mallikarjun Kharge, chairman of Gandhi’s Congress party, said Gandhi would appeal the verdict to a higher court and called Modi’s government “cowardly and dictatorial”.

After the verdict, Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. The truth is my God, and non-violence the means to obtain it.

Gandhi, a lawmaker, is one of the main opposition leaders in India. He will most likely face Modi when he seeks his third term as prime minister in 2024.

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.