India’s Supreme Court Grants Suspension of Rahul Gandhi’s Defamation Conviction

India’s Supreme Court Suspends Rahul Gandhi’s Defamation Conviction, Allowing His Return to Parliament

The Supreme Court of India has suspended the defamation conviction of Rahul Gandhi, a prominent leader of the opposition Congress Party. The court’s order will enable him to rejoin parliament and participate in the upcoming national elections slated for the next year.

Gandhi had been convicted in March as a result of comments he made in 2019, where he questioned why “all thieves have Modi as [their] common surname,” referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The remarks were deemed insulting to the Prime Minister and others sharing the surname, including a legislator from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The conviction led to a two-year prison sentence, which was suspended pending bail. However, it also resulted in the loss of his parliamentary seat since politicians sentenced to jail terms of two years or more face automatic disqualification.

Despite appeals to suspend the conviction in lower and high courts, they were rejected, leading Gandhi to approach the Supreme Court. The court’s judge, Justice B R Gavai, noted that the lower court had not provided any reasons for handing down the maximum sentence, leading to disqualification from parliament. While acknowledging that Gandhi’s comments were not appropriate, Justice Gavai remarked that the conviction not only punished Gandhi but also the voters who elected him to represent their constituency.

In his submission to the Supreme Court, Gandhi asserted that his speech was made during democratic political activity, and the sentence severely impeded democratic free speech.

The Congress party members celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision, with shouts of joy and sweets distributed at the party headquarters in New Delhi. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of Congress in the lower house of parliament, announced that he would immediately write to the speaker seeking Gandhi’s reinstatement. Meanwhile, there was no immediate reaction from the BJP, led by Prime Minister Modi.

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