Rahul Gandhi convicted in ‘Modi surname’ defamation case

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi was convicted by a Surat Court for allegedly defaming the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in 2019.

A day after his disqualification from the MP post, Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP and PM Modi during a press meet.

Photo Credit - Rahul Gandhi Facebook Page

Indian National Congress (INC) party’s former chief and the member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi has been found guilty in a 2019 defamation case by a Surat court on Thursday, March 23rd, and he has been sentenced to a two-year prison term. Mr Gandhi allegedly made “defamatory comments” against those with the Modi surname.

During an election rally before the 2019 general elections, Mr Gandhi took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his alleged links with fugitives like Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, et al. Mr Gandhi, while addressing an election rally in Karnataka’s Kolar, reportedly said, “Why all the thieves have Modi in their names whether be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi?”

Mr Gandhi’s remarks against those with the Modi surname reportedly irked Mr Modi’s supporters in his home turf, Gujarat. Mr Modi apparently had been seen with fugitives like Nirav Modi, Nirav Modi’s uncle Mehul Choksi, and reportedly had a bonhomie with Lalit Modi, before Lalit fled India.

A legislator from Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Purnesh Modi, filed a complaint against the INC MP following his remarks. Mr Gandhi was booked under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. 

Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Verma convicted Mr Gandhi on Thursday. Mr Gandhi was present in the courtroom with a large number of party workers and state and national leaders of the INC. However, the magistrate granted Mr Gandhi bail against a personal surety of Rs 15,000 and allowed him a period of 30 days to appeal against the verdict in the high court. 

Mr Gandhi’s conviction brought a wave of jubilation into the BJP’s camp. Purnesh Modi, the complainant, whose earlier surname was Bhootwala and who changed his surname to allegedly show allegiance to the prime minister, expressed his satisfaction with the verdict. The legislator and former minister said that he belongs to the Modhwanik Ghanchi community—apparently the prime minister’s community—and they use the Modi surname. He alleged that the community felt hurt due to Mr Gandhi’s remarks on those with the Modi surname.

Mr Gandhi’s lawyers have decided to appeal against the verdict. The INC has accused the BJP of resorting to political vendetta and claimed that Mr Gandhi is targeted because he is raising uncomfortable questions for Mr Modi and his cohorts. INC supporters in Gujarat cheered for Mr Gandhi and raised slogans against the BJP. They also displayed placards that claimed that the INC will not bow to the BJP’s “dictatorship”.

Mr Gandhi didn’t apologise for his remarks on the fugitives sharing the same surname as the prime minister. Quoting MK Gandhi, he tweeted in Hindi, “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence is the means to get it.”

Mr Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the BJP of her brother’s conviction. She tweeted in Hindi, “Scared rulers are pulling out all stops to suppress the voice of @RahulGandhi ji. My brother has never been afraid, nor will he ever be. He will continue to speak the truth and continue to raise the voice of the people of the country. The power of truth and the love of crores of countrymen are with him.”

In a rare show of unity, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief, Arvind Kejriwal condemned the conviction of Mr Gandhi and alleged that there is a conspiracy to stifle the non-BJP opposition leaders. In a tweet in Hindi, he wrote, “We have ideological differences between us, but it is not right to convict Rahul Gandhi ji in a defamation case. Common people and the opposition parties have the right to question. We respect the court, but cannot concur with the verdict.”

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