BJP hails Surat court verdict on Rahul Gandhi's plea in defamation case

Congress leader to move High Court

New Delhi: The BJP on Thursday hailed the Surat Sessions court verdict rejecting Rahul Gandhi's plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case over the 'Modi surname' remark while the Congress termed the judgement as “unsustainable and erroneous”.

The Congress said Surat court's order will be challenged in the High Court.

Additional sessions judge Robin P Mogera cited Gandhi's stature as an MP and former chief of the country's second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful. He cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing the people with the same surname with thieves.

The court said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. "...the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society".

"In this case, by uttering defamatory words viz comparing persons having [the] surname 'Modi' with thieves would definitely have caused mental agony and harm the reputation of [the] complainant, who is socially active and dealing in public," the court said.

It said when the defamatory matter affects each and every member “of an ascertainable class or group each of them or all of them could set the law in motion."

"After attributing defamatory statements against the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the accused did not stop there and further commented 'Why do all thieves have the common surname of 'Modi'? It is submitted that the defamatory statements were made by the accused and he had the knowledge that it would harm the reputation of 'Modi' surname holders and such statements were made only with a view to earning a political gain."

The judge cited the disqualification criteria under the Representation of the People Act and added that removal or disqualification as MP could not be termed irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to Gandhi.

Any elected representative sentenced for any offence for two years or more faces immediate disqualification under the Representation of People Act. The Supreme Court struck down in 2013 one provision of the Act that granted three-month protection from disqualification as "ultra vires".

Hailing the Surat court order dismissing Rahul Gandhi's plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the defamation case, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the appellate court's decision a "slap on the face of the Gandhi family".

The BJP said that the court proved that the law is equal for all and "there cannot be preferential treatment for any family".

Addressing a press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the decision is a victory for the people of the country.

"The decision of the Appellate Court of Surat has come today, there is an atmosphere of happiness in the whole country. The backward class for whom Rahul Gandhi had used objectionable words and abused them... and by doing all this, the Gandhi family thought that they would get away with it, that has not happened," he said.

"Court's decision is a slap on the face of the Gandhi family. Today the court of Surat proves that the law is equal for all," Patra added.

Describing the court's order as a special moment for the judiciary, the BJP leader said that it states that "no protests, or mobilisation can make the judiciary buckle under pressure".

"One thing is clear from today's decision that in this country the constitution rules, the family does not rule and there cannot be preferential treatment for any family," he said.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that the party will continue to avail all options l available to it under the law.

Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who addressed a press conference, said Rahul Gandhi’s conviction has been upheld contrary to all basic and elementary principles of law.

“The point is simple that a most unfortunate and unsustainable legal decision of the magistrate has been upheld in an even more unsustainable and erroneous judgment of the sessions court given today,” he said.

He said the judgment will be challenged in accordance with the law in the very near future and it will be challenged in the High Court.

“We are confident that superior courts with constitutional power of judicial review, namely the High Court and the Supreme Court, have the power and will set right these legal errors found in these two judgments. We are clear that the judgment is devoid of valid sustainable legal reasoning,” Singhvi said.

“One sentence, one line remark of Rahul Gandhi in a two-and-a-half odd page speech has been from inception distorted completely out of recognition to serve the narrow ends of motivated complainants, that has been hardly interpreted in the sessions court judgment and what little has been said, is a complete distortion, legally erroneous,” he added.

The Congress leader said that BJP’s speed and zeal to act after the original magistrate order “depicts their lightning speed when they are motivated by political animosity from house-taking to electricity connection disconnection to notices etc.”

He said the first seven-eight pages in the sessions court judgement are only quotations from judgments, Supreme Court judgments mostly underlined by the learned judge.

“The amazing part is that these are inapposite judgments, selectively underlined in respect of offences, which have nothing to do or similar to offences in my case or actually, directly supporting my stand. They are underlined and used to dismiss my appeal, where a bare reading of those precedence, judicial precedence shows that they are entirely in the favour of the point I am making,” he said.

Singhvi said the Prime Minister is not the complainant and in defamation law, a condition precedent is that the aggrieved party must be the complainant.

“The Prime Minister never complained. He never filed a petition,” Singhvi said.

He alleged that “completely misleading and misplaced statements” about the OBC community have backfired on the BJP.

“The voice of Rahul Gandhi is not to be silenced in the manner that the BJP thinks, it can do.”

Following the court verdict, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (JKPDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Today is the black day in the democracy of India as the main Opposition leader is being treated like this. BJP wants to make India a Banana Republic," she said.

On April 3, the Surat Sessions Court granted bail to Rahul Gandhi, who had filed an appeal following his conviction in the case by a lower court.

While granting bail to the former MP, the court also issued notices to complainant Purnesh Modi and the state government on the Congress leader's plea for a stay on his conviction. It heard both parties and then reserved the order for April 20.

A Surat court sentenced Rahul Gandhi to two years imprisonment on March 23 in a criminal defamation case filed by Purnesh Modi.

The case pertained to a remark Rahul Gandhi made in Kolar in Karnataka in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Following his conviction, Rahul was disqualified as an MP.

( Source : ANI )
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