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Rahul Gandhi sentenced to 2 years in jail in 2019 criminal defamation case

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years in jail by the Surat District Court in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him. The case was filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi, after Gandhi allegedly made “Modi surname” remarks at a Lok Sabha election rally in Karnataka’s Kolar on April 13, 2019. Gandhi had allegedly said, “Why all the thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names.”

Picture: Kumaon Jagran
Rahul Gandhi

Soon after the verdict was announced, Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to quote Mahatma Gandhi, saying “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it.” The court, however, granted Gandhi bail and stayed its order for a period of 30 days, allowing him to appeal in a higher court.

Reacting to the verdict, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said that the party knew from the beginning that Gandhi would be granted bail. He added that they believe in law and the judiciary and will fight against the verdict as per law.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, however, said that the Congress was “suffering” because of Gandhi’s “attitude.” He told news agency ANI, “Whatever Rahul Gandhi says always affects Congress party and the entire nation in a negative way.”

On Friday, Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Verma heard the final arguments in the defamation case. Gandhi’s counsel Kirit Panwala made the final arguments before the court and said that they would send a message to Rahul Gandhi to remain present on March 23 in the Surat district court. Panwala said that Gandhi would most probably be present in the court and they would get confirmation on Saturday.

This is not the first time Rahul Gandhi has faced a criminal defamation case. In 2019, he was also charged with defamation for calling BJP president Amit Shah a “murder accused” at a public rally. However, the case was later dropped.

Defamation is a criminal offense in India under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. If convicted, the accused can face imprisonment for up to two years or a fine or both. The verdict in the current case has once again brought the debate on freedom of speech and expression in India to the forefront.

Critics of the government have accused it of using defamation cases to suppress dissenting voices. Many have called for the repeal of criminal defamation laws, arguing that they are often misused by powerful politicians and businesses to silence critics.

The verdict against Rahul Gandhi has also raised questions about the independence of the judiciary in India. Some have criticized the frequent changing of judges in the case and alleged political interference. The judiciary has often been accused of being under the influence of the ruling government.

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