Lok Sabha secretariat restores Rahul Gandhi’s MP status a day after SC stays conviction in defamation case

Lok Sabha secretariat restores Rahul Gandhi's MP status a day after SC stays conviction in defamation case

Rahul Gandhi’s Prime Ministerial aspirations have been revived after his Lok Sabha (LS) membership was restored earlier today. A notification released by the LS Secretariat reads, “In view of the order dated 04.08.2023 of the Supreme Court, the disqualification of Shri Rahul Gandhi has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements.”

The development comes three days after the apex court on 4th August stayed Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his Modi surname remark. The apex court had also restored his status as a member of Parliament.

The restoration of his MP status has given Congress something to celebrate brand Rahul Gandhi about even as the Opposition alliance I.N.D.I.A. grapples with selecting a PM candidate and RaGa seems far from their first choice.

Even so, leaders from the alliance have jumped in to congratulate Rahul Gandhi to grab a piece of the pie for the brand I.N.D.I.A. Rahul Gandhi was quick to restore his status in his Twitter bio as “Member of Parliament”.

Not to forget the time when he had insulted Amethi voters, who had elected him, while campaigning in Wayanad in 2021. Whether his return as LS MP from Wayanad will bear well for the constituency or not remains to be seen.

A timeline of events

In April 2019, Rahul Gandhi mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a Lok Sabha election rally in Karnataka saying by asking “Why do all thieves share the Modi surname”. “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi… how come they all have Modi as a common surname? How come all thieves have Modi as a common surname?” Gandhi had made the remark at a campaign rally in Kolar, Karnataka.

A complaint was then filed by BJP MLA Surat Purnesh Modi against the Congress leader for defaming the entire Modi community. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi was booked under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with criminal defamation.

On 10th October, Rahul pleaded not guilty before a Surat court in connection with the case. He suffered his first setback in March this year, when the Surat District Court held him guilty. Following his conviction, the former Congress President was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on 24th March.

He was disqualified under section 8(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, which states that any MP or MLA convicted of any offense and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of conviction.

The notification issued by the Lok Sabha secretariate had said:

Consequent upon his conviction by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat in C.C./18712/2019, Shri Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March, 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

A petition was then filed by the Congress leader in the Supreme Court a day after seeking that such disqualifications of elected representatives be deemed as “illegal”. In a press conference on 25th March, Rahul Gandhi blatantly said that he will not apologise for his remarks.

“I am a Gandhi and not Savarkar, and Gandhis do not apologise,” he had said. On 3rd April, the Surat court extended bail granted to Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case till April 13.

However, his plea seeking suspension of two-year sentence was rejected by the Surat Sessions Court on 20th April.

Gandhi then moved the Gujarat HC challenging the Surat court’s refusal to give a stay on his conviction. On 7th July the HC too refused to stay his conviction. Following this he approached the Supreme Court on 15th July.

In what was his last resort, Rahul Gandhi gave his best shot in the SC arguing that if the decision is not overturned, it will severely impede free speech, expression, and thought.

In his plea, Rahul Gandhi contended that allowing the High Court’s decision to stand will gradually erode democratic institutions, leading to the stifling of democracy and negatively impacting the future of India’s political landscape. The Congress leader vehemently refuted the complainant’s claim that his speech defamed individuals bearing the Modi surname. Finally, on 4th August, his convicted was stayed and his disqualification was revoked on 7th August.

Meanwhile, Twitterati has erupted on both sides of the political spectrum taking a dig at each other.

Rahul Gandhi loyalists are in celebration mode whereas Opposition alliance leaders too are not behind in trying to score brownie points.

Congress would like to project Rahul Gandhi as the default PM candidate. However, not many in the Opposition camp have shown any interest in that regard. With Rahul back as an MP, the political plot for the Lok Sabha elections just got more interesting.

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