For andha bhakts (blind disciples) of Narendra Modi, Supreme Court staying the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a 2019 defamation case over his Modi surname remark and restoring his status as an MP must have come as a rude shock to the RSS and the BJP political ecosystem. True enough, in real sense it is a sort of censure on the functioning of the lower judiciary and to some extent questioning the legislative effectiveness.
While the observation of Supreme Court has exposed the haste mechanism the lower judiciary resorted to in the matter, it will also force the Speaker of Lok Sabha to do some amount of introspection; what was the need for rushing with the order to debar Rahul from the membership of the Lok Sabha. The Speaker could have waited for a few days and weighed for the consequences of his action. Though the Election Commission has the reputation of working at the direct instructions from Modi and Amit Shah, it also waited and did not announce holding of the by election for the seat laid vacant by Speaker’s action.
The three-judge bench of apex court which stayed the order candidly observed that no reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence. Of course it pulled up Rahul for his remarks at the Karnataka rally and observed that the Congress leader’s utterances were not in good taste and a person in public life is expected to exercise caution while making public speeches.
This remark from the judges obviously implied that Rahul should have maintained restraint. It was inability of the trial court to substantiate its action that became the base for staying the conviction. Justice B R Gavai sought to know; “Though appellate & high court have spent voluminous pages rejecting stay on conviction, these aspects are not considered in their orders”.
The top court was hearing a plea by Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court verdict which dismissed his plea seeking a stay on his conviction in a defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. Former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi had filed a criminal defamation case in 2019 against Gandhi over his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remark made during an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.
Just imagine the predicament of the Lok Sabha Speaker. With Supreme Court restoring Rahul’s membership of the Lok Sabha, he would have to issue an order reinstating him. The Lok Sabha secretariat will have to face discomfiture in reallocating the house, from which it had evicted Rahul in the wake of Speaker’s order.
One thing is sure that Supreme Court had not taken the proactive stance of the judge of the Gujarat High Court in not rejecting his conviction. While hearing, the Supreme Court remarked that the Gujarat High Court order made for a “very interesting read” and that it had a “lot of preaching.” Dismissing Rahul Gandhi’s petition, the Gujarat High Court had, on July 7, observed that “purity in politics” is the need of the hour. The High Court further said that there was no reasonable ground to pause the conviction, adding that the trial court’s order was “just, proper and legal” and there was no need to interfere with it. It had said; “There is no reasonable ground to stay the conviction. The trial court’s order is just, proper and legal and there is no need to interfere with the said order. The disqualification is not limited to only MPs and MLAs”.
The High Court had also remarked; “The present conviction is a serious matter affecting a large segment of society and needs to be viewed by this court with the gravity and significance it commands. It is now a need of the hour to have purity in politics”. There is little doubt the observation of the Supreme Court is nothing less than questioning the functioning of the Gujarat High Court.
It is surprising how could the High Court ignore lots of factual misrepresentation made by the petitioner. The counsel of Rahul pointed out that the original surname of Purnesh Modi, the complainant is not Modi and that he (Purnesh) belongs to Modh Vanika Samaj.“First of all, Purnesh Modi’s (complainant) original surname is not Modi…He changed his surname… Not a single of the persons Gandhi had named during his speech have sued. Interestingly, everybody who is aggrieved in this very ‘small’ community of 13 crores, only people suing are BJP office-holders,” Gandhi’s counsel, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, told the SC, according to legal website Live Law.
A look at the meandering of the facts makes it explicit that the RSS and top BJP leaders, Modi and Amit Shah, had planned to implicate him in false case for ensuring that Rahul remains out of Parliament. They in fact were sure that Rahul’s membership would not be restored as a consequence of it he would be debarred from contesting the election for next eight years.
But unfortunately for RSS and Modi, their design lies shattered in the campus of Supreme Court. This order will have immense impact on the prevailing political scenario. The stay on rejection and restoration of membership of Lok Sabha will also torpedo the plan of the RSS and BJP to go ahead with a Hindu Rashtra No doubt this verdict will have shattering impact on the Sangh Parivar.. This would boost the relevance of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The BJP ecosystem had launched an intensive campaign to present the BJY in bad light.
What has indeed shaken the confidence and trust of the RSS and BJP workers and the ecosystem in their leadership is the avowal of Rahul Gandhi not to apologise for his Modi surname remark that led to his conviction in the defamation case and subsequent disqualification from the Parliament. This manifests his strong mental frame and firm belief in truth. Undeniably this would have impeccable impact on his party colleagues and also force Modi and Shah to rethink and redesign their strategy to deal with Rahul. Rahul.
The apex court verdict has made it explicit that using the criminal process and the provisions of Representation of People Act to force Rahul into apologising for no fault of his own , is gross abuse of the judicial process and ought not to be countenanced by this Court. This verdict has also unmasked Modi of being a strong iron leader. This message will have deep wrong impact on the psyche of the RSS and BJP cadres. No doubt Mohan Bhagwat, Modi and Amit Shah will put a strong face. But that will not succeed in retrieving the moral power which these leaders lost in the wake of the verdict.(IPA Service)