The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the conviction of Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi in the criminal defamation case against him over his ‘Modi surname’ remark, while maintaining that his remarks are not in good taste, especially for a person in public life.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha and PV Sanjay Kumar said that the trial court did not give any specific reasons for imposing the maximum punishment of two years’ imprisonment prescribed under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for the offence of defamation though the offence is a non-cognizable one.
Among the concerns raised by the Supreme Court was the fact that the trial judge awarded the maximum sentence of two years to Gandhi but failed to provide sufficient reasons for this decision. The court criticised the lack of explanation, stating, “The trial court was expected to give some reasons on why he gave the maximum punishment of two years.”
The court further noted that the only reason for Gandhi’s disqualification appeared to be the duration of his sentence. The Supreme Court underscored the significant implications of this provision, as it affects not only the rights of the convicted person but also those of the electorate.
Rahul Gandhi approached the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat High Court’s order dismissing his application to stay the conviction in the criminal case. The conviction in the case led to his disqualification as a Member of Parliament.
BJP leader and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi in 2019 over his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remark made during an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.