The Gujarat High Court will hear the plea of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi challenging the order of a Surat sessions court that refused to grant him a stay on his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. The hearing will take place on April 29 and will be presided over by Justice Hemant Prachchhak, according to news agency PTI.
Earlier, on April 26, Justice Gita Gopi of the Gujarat High Court recused herself from hearing the case, saying “not before me,” a day after Gandhi moved the High Court challenging the sessions court order. In March 2021, a metropolitan magistrate’s court in Surat sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation) in a 2019 case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Gujarat MLA Purnesh Modi.
As a result of the conviction, Rahul Gandhi, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, was disqualified as a Member of Parliament (MP) under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act. He then challenged the order in a sessions court in Surat along with a plea seeking a stay on his conviction. However, while granting him bail, the court on April 20 refused to stay the conviction.
It is worth noting that Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case against Rahul Gandhi over his remark during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019, where he said, “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” A stay on the conviction could pave the way for Rahul Gandhi’s reinstatement as a Member of Parliament.