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Mar 24, 2023

Day After Conviction, Rahul Gandhi Disqualified as Lok Sabha MP

On March 23, a Surat court found Rahul Gandhi guilty of criminal defamation for his alleged remarks on the ‘Modi’ surname. The Lok Sabha secretariat issued a notification saying the Wayanad MP was disqualified with effect from yesterday.
Rahul Gandhi. Photo: Twitter/@INCIndia

New Delhi: A day after he was convicted in a defamation case by a Surat court for his alleged remarks on the ‘Modi’ surname, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on Friday, March 24. The Lok Sabha secretariat issued a notification saying the Wayanad MP was disqualified with effect from March 23, 2023.

The notification issued by the Lok Sabha secretariat disqualifying Rahul Gandhi as an MP. Photo: By arrangement

According to Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, if an MP, MLA or MLC is convicted of any offence and is sentenced for at least two years, he attracts disqualification and “shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release”. The conviction, which is likely to be challenged in a sessions court, and then, if necessary, before the high court and Supreme Court, could also result in Gandhi getting barred from contesting elections for at least six years – if the conviction and sentence are not overturned.

Gandhi was convicted for the remarks he made at a pre-election rally in 2019 in Kolar, Karnataka. He was alleged to have said, “I have a question. Why do all of them — all of these thieves — have Modi Modi Modi in their names? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. And if we search a bit more, many more such Modis will come out.”

Subsequently, Purnesh Modi, who was a minister in Gujarat at the time, filed a complaint alleging that he had defamed the entire Modi community.

The Surat court had, while convicting the Congress leader and sentencing him to two years in jail, granted him bail for 30 days to appeal against the decision. The sentence was also suspended for 30 days.

Following his conviction, Gandhi tweeted a famous line spoken by Mahatma Gandhi in Hindi. It said: “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it.”

Reacting to Gandhi’s disqualification, the Congress tweeted in Hindi: “Lok Sabha membership of Rahul Gandhi has been terminated. He is continuously fighting for you and this country from road to parliament, trying everything possible to save democracy. Despite every conspiracy, he will continue this fight at all costs and will take just action in this matter. The fight continues.”

The Congress’s chief spokesperson Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “We will fight this battle both legally and politically. We will not be intimidated or silenced.”

In 2013, the United Progressive Alliance government tried to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Lily Thomas case – which held that any MP, MLA or MLC who is convicted of a crime and given a minimum of 2 years’ jail loses membership of the House with immediate effect – by enacting an ordinance. Ironically, the ordinance was rolled back after Rahul Gandhi tore a copy of the ordinance at a press conference as a form of protest.

Attended parliament earlier on Friday

Before his disqualification was notified by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, Rahul Gandhi was allowed to attend the Lok Sabha proceedings earlier on Friday. He paid a brief visit to the Lower House of Parliament, which was adjourned by speaker Om Birla in view of the impending commotion, and the Congres leader was unable to speak.

Even before Friday, Gandhi was not allowed to speak as members of the treasury bench sought an apology from him for the remarks he made in London. Speaking with civil society members in the UK, he said the Narendra Modi government eroding India’s democratic institutions. Some opposition MPs have accused the BJP government of using these remarks to deflect attention from allegations that it played a key role in the meteoric rise Gautam Adani.

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi also attended a party meeting in the chamber of the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday. While exiting the meeting with Kharge, he was quoted by Hindustan Times as taking a swipe at the ruling party, saying: “If I touch you now, they will say I am wiping my nose on your back. Have you seen that? That I am helping you over there, they are saying I am wiping my nose on you.”

Gandhi’s reference was to some BJP leader claiming that he used Kharge as a “tissue paper”, when he was actually offering to drop the latter home.

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