India court refuses stay on Rahul Gandhi defamation conviction

india court refuses stay on rahul gandhi defamation conviction

Top Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to overturn his expulsion from parliament were again blocked Friday when a court refused to stay his jail sentence for defamation.

Gandhi was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for comments he made in 2019, which a court ruled were insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and those sharing his surname.

Modi’s government is widely accused of using the defamation law to silence critics.

The case in the premier’s home state of Gujarat is one of several lodged in recent years against Gandhi, who is Modi’s chief opponent and the foremost member of the opposition Congress party.

A judge of the Gujarat High Court said the original verdict was “just and legal” and refused to put a stay on Gandhi’s conviction.

“It is now the need of the hour to have purity in politics. A representative of people should be a man of clear character,” the judge said Friday.

Gandhi had already been denied a stay by a lower Gujarat court in April, a month after his original conviction and subsequent expulsion from parliament.

The sentence as it stands leaves Gandhi ineligible to stand in next year’s election, prompting condemnation from supporters.

“No force can silence him, the truth will triumph and justice will ultimately prevail,” opposition lawmaker K.C. Venugopal wrote on Twitter after the verdict.

Critics highlight that the defamation conviction came after Gandhi repeatedly raised the issue of Modi’s relationship with business tycoon Gautam Adani, both inside and outside parliament.

The two men — both Gujaratis — have been close associates for decades, but Adani’s business empire was subject to renewed scrutiny this year after a US investment firm accused it of “brazen” corporate fraud, which it denies.

‘Arrogance and infallibility’

Gandhi, currently on bail, will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court in New Delhi, Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters.

“We have no doubt that this intersection of arrogance and infallibility shown by this government of the day and ruling party of the day will be dealt with properly in the Supreme Court,” Singhvi said.

Gandhi is the leading face of the Congress party, once the dominant force in Indian politics but now a shadow of its former self.

He is the scion of India’s premier political dynasty and the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.

His conviction stemmed from a remark made during the 2019 election campaign in which Gandhi had asked why “all thieves have Modi as (their) common surname”.

Members of Modi’s government said the remark was a slur against all Indians with the surname Modi, which is associated with the lower rungs of India’s traditional caste hierarchy.

Authored by Afp via Breitbart July 7th 2023