A court in Gujarat’s Surat on Thursday held Congress lawmaker Rahul Gandhi guilty of criminal defamation for his remark about the Modi surname and sentenced him to two-year imprisonment.
He was convicted under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)’s Section 500, which provides for imprisonment up to two years, and later released on bail in lieu of a ₹10,000 bond.
Congress spokesman Manish Doshi said they have three months to challenge the order in Gujarat high court.
Former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi filed the case against Gandhi for allegedly defaming the Modi community at a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar ahead of the 2019 national polls. “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” Gandhi was quoted to have said.
Gandhi earlier arrived in Surat. Congress leaders Jagdish Thakor, Amit Chavda, Arjun Modhwadia, and Raghu Sharma received him at the Surat airport.
Congress supporters assembled across Surat as a show of support for Gandhi. Posters calling him ‘Sher-e-Hindustan (lion of Hindustan)’ were also put up. The Congress supporters held placards declaring the Congress will not bow “before the dictatorship” of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Truth is put to test and is harassed, but truth alone prevails. Several false cases have been filed against Gandhi, but he will emerge from all these. We will get justice,” said Modhwadia.
The court on March 17 concluded the final hearing in the matter and said it will pronounce the verdict on March 23. Gandhi appeared for the third and last time before the court in October 2021 to record his statement and pleaded not guilty.
The Gujarat high court this year vacated an interim stay on the trial imposed in March 2022 on the complainant’s plea demanding Gandhi’s personal appearance. The final arguments in the Surat court resumed last month.
Gandhi’s lawyer argued the court proceedings were “flawed” and that Narendra Modi and not Purnesh Modi should have been the complainant in the case because the Prime Minister was the main target of Gandhi’s speech.
Doshi said they stand united to show that however hard the BJP may try to silence them, they will continue their fight for India’s people.
Doshi said they were examining the order and will comment after studying it carefully.
Sharma said the truth will prevail and added the BJP was trying to divert attention from real issues such as inflation.