Rahul Gandhi conviction, Surat sessions court trial
Addressing a press conference in Kothur during his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gandhi said the march is not a magic wand but a good first step to connect with people | File Image

Rahul Gandhi disqualified from Lok Sabha; 'not intimidated,' says Kharge

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was on Friday (March 24) disqualified from Lok Sabha a day after he was convicted by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case.

Rahul’s disqualification is effective from the date of his conviction, March 23, a notification from the Lok Sabha Secretariat said.

Kharge calls a meeting

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has called a meeting of senior leaders of the party at 5 pm on Friday to discuss the political course of action following Rahul’s disqualification.

A briefing on the matter will be done by Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Jairam Ramesh at 3.45 pm.

“The government thinks that by disqualifying Rahul, it will be able to intimidate him and the Congress party and silence us. Rahul has been speaking the truth, he has been speaking against the failures of this government and he will continue to do so. We will continue to raise our demand for a JPC into the Adani issue, both inside the Parliament and out it,” Kharge told reporters.

Also read: Why is BJP solely focused on discrediting Rahul Gandhi?

Congress communication department chief Jairam Ramesh said the party will fight Rahul’s disqualification issue legally and politically.

“We will fight this battle both legally and politically. We will not be intimidated or silenced. Instead of a JPC into the PM-linked Adani MahaMegaScam, @RahulGandhi stands disqualified. Indian Democracy Om Shanti,” he tweeted.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Choudhary said: “The party running the government…does not believe in the principles of democracy. They are worshippers of autocracy, they are autocrats. Now we are under the regime of autocrats.”

“I must assert on behalf of my party that Rahul ji will not be cowed down. The government did not know how to face him so they decided to throttle him, subjugate him by any way. That’s why he has been disqailified. In future, he will face more punishment from this government. But Rahul Gandhi believes in democracy and he cannot be cowed down,” he added.

Opposition reacts

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, reacting on Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification said “Today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy.”

“In PM Modi’s New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP! While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches,” she tweeted.

Sharing a copy of Rahul’s disqualification order, RJD leader Manoj Jha called it “bizarre and obnoxious” and hailed Opposition parties to continue the fight to “resuscitate democracy.”

“How bizarre and obnoxious. Shamelessness has got a new address. Yet don’t say democracy is dead in India. Parties in opposition must see that it is not about ‘elections’ alone but the fight must be to resuscitate Democracy…Jai Hind,” he tweeted.

On Thursday, the court sentenced Wayanad MP Rahul to two years in jail in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him over his Modi surname remarks.

The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma, which held Rahul guilty under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500, also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court, the Congress leaders lawyer Babu Mangukiya said.

Also read: Surname Modi: Who are they, where do they come from, what do they do?

Cloud on fighting elections

As per the Representation of the People Act, a person sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving time.

This means not just disqualification from the Lok Sabha but also ban on contesting elections for 8 years (2 years being his period of sentence in the defamation case and additional 6 years as per provisions of Section 8, RP Act). In order to be able to contest the 2024 or even 2029 Lok Sabha polls, Rahul will need judicial relief from an appellate court, either by way of a stay on his conviction or acquittal in the case or through reduction of sentence if the appellate court, like the CJM Surat court, upholds the charge of criminal defamation

Rahul was present in the court when the verdict was pronounced. The case was filed against Rahul for his alleged “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remarks on a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.

Reacting to the court’s verdict, Rahul tweeted a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, in Hindi, “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it. – Mahatma Gandhi.”

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