The Gujarat High Court, hearing Rahul Gandhi’s appeal challenging his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark, said it will continue hearing the case on May 2.
The case was listed before Justice Hemant Prachchhak of the Gujarat High Court after Justice Geeta Gopi withdrew herself from hearing the case by saying “not before me”.
Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Mr Gandhi, told the High Court that “Very serious ex-facie vitiatig factors of the trial raise grave apprehensions about the process of trial that led to the conviction.”
“In the case of a public servant or a legislator, it has very serious additional irreversible consequences – to the person, the constituency, and also drastic consequences of re-election,” he told the court.
The Congress leader went to the High Court on Tuesday after his appeal was dismissed in the lower court to freeze his conviction in the case.
Last month, the metropolitan magistrate’s court in Surat convicted Rahul Gandhi of criminal defamation and sentenced him to two years in jail. The case was filed by Gujarat BJP MLA Purnesh Modi over Rahul Gandhi’s “Modi surname remark”.
The two-year jail sentence was enough to bar Rahul Gandhi from parliament. The law states that if a member is convicted of any offence for two or more years, his or her seat will be declared vacant. One can only stay in the parliament if the conviction is suspended.
The Gujarat court granted him bail and gave him 30 days to file an appeal.
In his appeal in the Surat court to freeze the conviction, Mr Gandhi said the court treated him harshly and was overwhelmingly influenced by his status as an MP.
The judge disagreed with Rahul Gandhi’s contention and said he had “failed to that by not staying the conviction and denying an opportunity to contest the election, an irreversible and irrevocable damage will be caused to him”.
After the court setback, Rahul Gandhi vacated his official residence in Delhi. The Lok Sabha Housing Committee had sent him a letter to vacate his 12, Tughlaq Lane bungalow, which he had since 2005.
In 2019 while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi had said “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi”, targeting the Prime Minister over his surname, which he shares with fugitive businessman Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.
With inputs from NDTV