A court in Surat in Gujarat on Thursday sentenced Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him over his “Modi surname” remarks.
The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma, which held Gandhi guilty under Indian Penal Code sections 499 and 500, also granted him bail, and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court, the Congress leader’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya said.
As per the Representation of the People Act, a person sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction,” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving time.
Gandhi was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced.
The case was filed against Gandhi for his alleged comment, “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”. This allegation comes from a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.
Gandhi made the remarks while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Reacting to the judgement, complainant and Surat West Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Purnesh Modi said he welcomed the court’s verdict.
Final arguments resumed in the case last month after the Gujarat High Court vacated its stay on proceedings imposed on plea by the complainant demanding Gandhi’s personal appearance.
Gandhi had last appeared before the Surat court in the case in October 2021 to record his statement. Before that, the Congress MP had appeared in court to plead not guilty to the charges levelled against him.
Earlier in the day, state Congress leaders, including GPCC president Jagdish Thakor, legislature party leader Amit Chavda, senior leader Arjun Modhwadia, and AICC in-charge of Gujarat Raghu Sharma, were at Surat airport to receive Gandhi.
A huge number of party functionaries had assembled at various spots in the city as a show of strength and support for Gandhi, with posters extolling him as ‘Sher-e-Hindustan’ (lion of Hindustan) and placards declaring that the “Congress will not bow before the dictatorship of the BJP” on display.