Rahul Gandhi files appeal against conviction in criminal defamation case; court posts it to 13 April

The sessions court hearing the Wayanad MP's plea seeking a stay in conviction asked Purnesh Modi to file his reply by 10 April.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 03, 2023 | 5:49 PMUpdatedApr 03, 2023 | 5:49 PM

Rahul Gandhi appeal

Disqualified Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi was granted bail on Monday, 3 April, by a sessions court in Gujarat’s Surat city after he filed an appeal against his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his 2019 “Modi surname” remark in Kolar, Karnataka, in which he has been sentenced to two years in jail, a lawyer said.

The court of Additional Sessions Judge RP Mogera said it will hear his plea for suspension of conviction on 13 April after issuing a notice to complainant Purnesh Modi, a BJP MLA and former Gujarat Cabinet minister.

The sessions court asked the respondent (Purnesh Modi) to file his reply by 10 April.

“We had filed an application for Rahul Gandhi’s bail and suspension of sentence along with his appeal against conviction by a lower court. The (sessions) court heard the matter and granted him bail. The court kept the matter for hearing on the stay of his conviction for 13 April,” a member of his legal team told reporters.

Rahul Gandhi, who arrived in Surat earlier in the day, will not be required to appear in court during the hearing of the case, he said.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other party leaders were present in the courtroom when the matter came up for hearing at around 3 pm.

Related: A divided Opposition unites for disqualified MP Rahul Gandhi

Shashi Tharoor slams Rijiju

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday dismissed as “absurd” the BJP’s charge that the Opposition party exerted “undue pressure” on the judiciary as its leaders accompanied Rahul Gandhi to the court.

Law Minister Kiren Rijiju alleged that the decision of Congress leaders to accompany Gandhi to the Surat court, where he filed the appeal against his conviction, was a way of trying to exert “undue pressure” on the judiciary.

Asked about the BJP charge, Tharoor said, “That is an absurd allegation. First of all, who attends the court is not a source of pressure.”

“If at all there is a source of pressure on the judiciary, I think we can all guess where that is likely to come from,” the former Union minister told PTI.

He said Gandhi is the principal political leader of a major Opposition party, so it is appropriate to put up a show of strength; but ultimately, the soundness of the arguments of lawyers inside the courtroom is what prevails.

Related: ‘My name is not Savarkar, won’t apologise’, says Rahul Gandhi

‘People doesn’t decide cases’

“Who comes to the court is not going to decide a case, it is what is argued in the court that is going to decide and that is essentially for us the principal reason why it has taken a week for the lawyers to prepare a very robust and sound defence,” Tharoor said.

Rahul Gandhi reached the sessions court premises in a luxury bus along with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior leaders. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and several other party leaders were present in Surat.

The case was filed against Rahul Gandhi on a complaint by Purnesh Modi for the 52-year-old Congress leader’s remark, “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?”

The disqualified MP made the comment on “Modi surname” while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka on 13 April, 2019, during campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress leader, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, was convicted on 23 March by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma and sentenced to two years in jail.

The magistrate’s court granted him bail the same day and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court. A day after his conviction and sentence, he was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha.

(With PTI inputs)