Rahul Gandhi will remain disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP after a Gujarat High Court today rejected his request to put on hold his conviction in a defamation case over his 2019 Modi surname remark. The conviction is “just, proper and legal”, the High Court said.
The Congress leader will now approach the Supreme Court with his request. Since his disqualification stands, he is not likely to make it back into parliament in the coming monsoon session beginning July 20. If the Supreme Court also rejects his request, Rahul Gandhi cannot contest next year’s election.
The Gujarat High Court cited Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on Veer Savarkar at Cambridge in its order.
“It is needed to have purity in politics…A complaint has been filed against (Rahul Gandhi) by the grandson of Veer Savarkar in Pune Court after Gandhi used terms against Veer Savarkar at Cambridge,” said the High Court.
“Refusal to stay conviction would not in any way result in injustice to the applicant. There are no reasonable grounds to stay conviction. The conviction is just, proper and legal.”
The court said there were “as many as 10 cases pending” against Rahul Gandhi and he was “seeking a stay on absolutely non-existent grounds”. A “stay on conviction is not a rule”, said the judge.
The former Congress chief will not go to jail as his two-year sentence had been put on hold by a court previously.
Today’s decision is a huge blow to the Congress as it plans strategy for a series of upcoming polls, including the 2024 national election.
In May, the Gujarat High Court had denied any reprieve to Rahul Gandhi, saying it would announce its final decision after the court’s summer vacation, which ended three weeks back.
In a hearing on April 29, Rahul Gandhi’s lawyer had argued that two years in jail for a “bailable, non-cognisable offence” meant his client could lose his Lok Sabha seat “permanently and irreversibly”, which was a “very serious additional irreversible consequence to the person and the constituency he represents”.
Under the law, an MP stands disqualified if sentenced to two years or more in prison.
Rahul Gandhi, 52, was sentenced to prison for two years in Gujarat on March 23 for his speech during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign. BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi had filed the case over Rahul Gandhi saying: “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?”
The Congress leader, who was the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala, was disqualified soon after.
Rahul Gandhi challenged the order in a sessions court in Surat along with an application seeking a stay on the conviction. While granting him bail, the court, on April 20, refused to stay the conviction, after which he approached the High Court.