The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday (May 2), refused to grant interim relief to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on his plea for stay of conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark, saying it will pass its final order post-summer vacation.
Counsel for Gandhi (52), Abhishek Manu Singhvi, cited “extreme urgency” to request from the court for an interim or a final order after arguments from both sides in the matter concluded during the day.
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The court of Justice Hemant Prachchhak, however, said no interim protection can be granted at this stage. Justice Prachchhak said he will pass a final order only after going through the records and proceedings, and posted the matter for verdict after reopening of the HC post- summer vacation, which will be from May 8 to June 3.
Advocate Nirupam Nanavati, who appeared for Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Purnesh Modi, the original complainant in the case, also opposed Singhvi’s prayer for interim relief to the disqualified Lok Sabha MP.
The HC heard Gandhi’s appeal against the sessions courts order last month refusing to stay his conviction in the 2019 defamation case after a trial court in Surat convicted and sentenced him to two years in jail, leading to his disqualification as a Member of Parliament.
The Congress leader was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019.
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The Surat trial court had on March 23 sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (related to criminal defamation) in the case filed by BJP legislator Modi. Modi, a former Gujarat minister, had filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi over his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname? remark made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.
On April 3 this year, Gandhi’s lawyer approached the Surat sessions court and filed two applications — one for bail and the other for stay of conviction pending his appeal along with his main appeal against the lower courts order sentencing him to two years in jail.
While the sessions court granted bail to Gandhi, it rejected his plea for stay on conviction. On Wednesday last, Justice Gita Gopi recused herself from hearing the case after it was presented before her for an urgent hearing. The matter was then assigned to Justice Prachchhak.
(With agency inputs)