The Indian opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, whose family has always secured a front seat in the political scenario since the dawn of Independence, can finally breathe a sign of relief after Supreme Court stayed his conviction in Modi’s surname defamation remark. What does this signify for the “Opposition INDIA”? What does this mean for the Central Government? Is this an ultimate win for the Indian democracy?
The Story So Far – Rahul Gandhi’s Defaming Remark On The “Modi” Community
The case unveils itself just before the 17th Lok Sabha General elections in the year of 2019. Gandhi, the son of the opposition leader of the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi, while delivering a speech at a public event in Kolar, Karnataka, on 13th April 2019, said, ‘In sab choron ke naam Modi, Modi, Modi, Kyun hai? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi‘. These words of Rahul Gandhi spurred a massive debate in the country, which finally led to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha four years later in March 2023.
Following the words of Gandhi, BJP MLA Purnesh Modi on 16th April, 2019, filed a case under Sections 499, 500 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code, (1860) against the Congress leader. Purnesh Modi claimed that Gandhi intentionally defamed an entire Modi community. Finally, in May 2019, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court at Surat registered the criminal defamation case.
Following these events in March 2023, the Surat Magistrate Court convicted Gandhi for his defaming remark on the Modi community. The Court found him guilty and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment. However, the Court granted him bail and permitted him to appeal to the High Court for seeking justice.
Soon after, Rahul was disqualified from Parliament. The notification stated that he was disqualified in accordance with Section 8 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 (RPA) read along with Article 102 (1)e of the Constitution of India. He was also barred from contesting in the Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi, in search of justice, appealed to the Gujarat High Court seeking for a stay on the orders of the Surat Magistrate Court. Following the words of Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi who appeared for Gandhi in the Court, said that the conviction was a contradiction to the basic principles of democracy. It is also an injustice to the people in the Wayanad Constituency which is being represented by Gandhi.
On 7th July, 2023, the Gujarat High Court refused to stay the conviction in light of the Modi defamation case of Rahul Gandhi. According to the words of Justice Hemant P Prachchhak, Rahul Gandhi has breached modesty and his actions displayed moral turpitude! Criticising the act of the Gujarat High Court, Sanghvi commented that HC was wrong to refer to Gandhi as a man of immoral acts.
Gandhi moved the Supreme Court following the refusal of the Gujarat High Court to stay the conviction. On 21st July 2023, a divisional bench comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and P.K. Mishra heard the appeal of Sanghvi.
The Supreme Court on 4th August 2023 finally heard the plea of Gandhi and stayed the conviction for the alleged remark of Gandhi against the “Modi community “. The stay order ultimately led Gandhi to step foot in Parliament yet again. Rahul Gandhi has now returned to the Parliament on Monday, soon after the Supreme Court on 4th July 2023 suspended his conviction on the Modi defamation case! As soon as the announcement came in, celebrations broke out at the Congress headquarters in Delhi in support of Rahul Gandhi’s return to Parliament.
On Monday, 7th July 2023, Gandhi stepped foot on the Parliament after showing his respect to the Statue Of Freedom Movement Leader Mahatma Gandhi. Opposition parties and the new alliance group, the INDIA bloc too gathered on the Parliament premises to cheer Rahul Gandhi.
Announcing the verdict, Justice B. R. Gavai said, “ No reason has been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum sentence, the order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication,” .
Senior Advocate Singhvi further added, “Interestingly, everybody who is aggrieved in this very ‘small’ community of 13 crores, only people suing are BJP office-holders. Very strange,’. He further said, In that 13 crores, there is no uniformity, homogeneity, identifiability, no boundary line…That is the first point. Second is that [Purnesh Modi] himself said that his original surname was not Modi,”.
An Ultimate Win For The Indian Democracy
The Order of the Supreme Court is now being celebrated by the Congress members. The Opposition INDIA bloc too celebrated the ultimate win of Gandhi against the Modi Government. It is important to note here that when the Gujarat HC refused to stay the conviction, the members of the Opposition INDIA bloc came together to protest against the corruption of the Modi Government. The Opposition INDIA said that this heinous act of the Gujarat HC was a last nail to the coffin of the Indian democracy. Today, as the Congress is celebrating the win of Gandhi, the Opposition INDIA bloc too supported the Congress leadership.
The last four months have been a successful phase for the Congress party. Gandhi held several talks with other opposition parties to come together to form an alliance to beat the Modi Government in the upcoming elections. The alliance was named last month as INDIA – Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. The return of Gandhi to Parliament brings a ray of hope for the Opposition INDIA as Rahul Gandhi will able to compete for the post of MP again, which in turn will benefit the Opposition INDIA bloc, who will now get a chance to hold the Central power!
Soon after Gandhi returned to the Parliament on Monday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge opinionated that the reinstatement of Gandhi brings relief to the people of India, and especially to Wayanad. Kharge tweeted further, “ Whatever time is left of their tenure, BJP and Modi government should utilise that by concentrating on actual governance rather than denigrating democracy by targeting opposition leaders.” Fellow Congress party MP Shashi Tharoor said, “He can now resume his duties in the Lok Sabha to serve the people of India and his constituents. A victory of justice and for our democracy,”. Congress MP P. Chidambaram too congratulated Gandhi on his victory against the oppression. Chidambaram tweeted, “We are having that the Speaker took the decision today. He can now attend the Lok Sabha”.
The Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav too congratulated Gandhi and Congress on being able to return to the Parliament again. Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot tweeted, “Truth won…The voice of the public will again be raised in the Parliament. With the restoration of G’s membership of the Parliament, the struggle being done to save democracy and to raise the issues of the people will get new strength. Together we will move forward in the direction of empowering India, laying the foundation for a bright future.”.
On the other hand, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey reacted to the return of Gandhi on Parliament and said that the “Congress is trying to divide India with the help of China”.
Life In A Democratic Country – Sanghvi’s Words On The Decision Of The Gujarat High Court Signifies The Death Of The Right To Freedom Of Speech And Expression In India
In the year 2022, Gandhi launched his famous “Bharat Jodo Yatra” from India’s southern tip to Kashmir in the Himalayas with an aim to re-establish his party and build his image as a person who works for the public. A once-influential party in the Indian political scenario, that now struggles to win votes of the public, Gandhi’s “Unify India “ is propaganda to bring back the trust of the people in the Congress party.
The year 2023 saw Gandhi being disqualified from competing elections in the Lok Sabha. The Magistrate Court of Surat could not show any valid reason for barring Gandhi to enter the Parliament for two years! Is this all a tactic of Modi to prevent Gandhi from holding office, so as to secure his own stay in the Centre? According to reports, the High Court Judge who refused to stay the conviction of Gandhi was promoted to a higher order! Does this not signify the corruption the Modi Government is trying to bring into India, under the disguise of ‘Aachhe Din Aayenge‘? There are several instances where the powerful and the influential have played with the law and order to suppress the “words” that go against them. Authorities have used security, defamation, sedition, and hate speech laws, as well as contempt-of-court charges, to quiet critical voices in the media. Activists, Muslims, and members of other marginalized communities are routinely charged with sedition for criticizing the government and its policies.
Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “Despite the ridiculous conviction for defamation for 2 years by the Surat court, the sentence has stayed for 30 days for Rahul to appeal. But within a day, the Lok Sabha secretary disqualified him! All to prevent him from speaking on Adani”.
The Modi Government has skilfully tried to defame and disqualify Gandhi so as to prevent him to become successful in his “Bharat Jodo Yatra“. An act of protest against the Modi government, “Unify India “ is a way to aware the common public of the corruption and terror the Modi Government is trying to impose on Indian soil.
The burning question now remains, “Who will win the hearts of the people in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections?