New Delhi: A Surat district court on Thursday sentenced Congress MP Rahul Gandhi to two years in prison after holding him guilty in a criminal defamation case over a remark on the “Modi” surname in 2019. The court later granted Rahul bail to appeal.
VIDEO of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reaching Surat District Court today morning. The court holds him guilty in the criminal defamation case filed against him over his alleged 'Modi surname' remark. pic.twitter.com/988hRs4Cec
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) March 23, 2023
The prosecuting lawyer Ketan Reshamwala said Rahul had been convicted under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. “The sentence awarded is for two years… he has pleaded that he may be released on bail till the appeal period… The court has granted him bail for 30 days and until appeal, the sentence is suspended,” Reshamwala said.
Shortly after the sentence, Rahul Gandhi tweeted a quote by Mahatma Gandhi. “Mera dharam satya hai aur ahimsa par adharit hai. Satya mera bhagwan hai, ahimsa ussey paaney ka sadhan” (My “religion” is based on “truth and non-violence”).
मेरा धर्म सत्य और अहिंसा पर आधारित है। सत्य मेरा भगवान है, अहिंसा उसे पाने का साधन।
– महात्मा गांधी
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 23, 2023
The case was filed on a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi after the Congress leader allegedly said: “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”
The complainant claimed the controversial remark was made at a rally at Kolar in Karnataka, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He said the comment defamed the entire Modi community.
The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, H.H. Varma, had concluded hearing final arguments last Friday and set 23 March as the date of judgment.
The judge had asked Rahul to be present in court when he pronounced his decision. The Congress MP had previously appeared thrice during the hearing. He was last seen in court in October 2021 to record his statement. He pleaded not guilty.
The final arguments in the defamation case resumed in February 2023 after the Gujarat High Court vacated the interim stay it had imposed on the proceedings in March 2022 on the complainant’s plea, demanding the presence of Rahul Gandhi.
The Surat West MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi said there were CDs and a pen drive of Rahul Gandhi’s speech to prove that the Congress leader had made that “defamatory” comment.
Rahul’s lawyer, on the other hand, said Narendra Modi — and not Purnesh Modi — should have been the complainant because most of Rahul’s speeches targeted the Prime Minister.
Also read: “Let’s see what Chairman will say”: Kharge on Rajya Sabha floor leaders meeting