A Surat court on Thursday held Congress MP Rahul Gandhi guilty in a 2019 defamation case and sentenced him to two years imprisonment. The court approved Gandhi’s bail on a surety of Rs 15,000 and stayed the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal.
The case filed by former Gujarat minister and BJP MLA from Surat West Purnesh Modi pertains to the alleged remarks Gandhi made on April 13, 2019, at a Lok Sabha election rally in Karnataka’s Kolar where he said, “Why all the thieves have Modi in their names whether be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi?”
The order was pronounced by Chief Judicial Magistrate H H Verma. Gandhi was present inside the courtroom on Thursday afternoon along with several national and state Congress leaders. The Surat police had increased security arrangements in the court campus to prevent untoward incidents.
“We are not satisfied with the verdict passed by the court as some of our arguments were not taken into consideration. The issues we raised were, there is no community by the name of Modi and even the complainant is not a Modi as his earlier surname was Bhootwala and later changed to Modi. We will take up our issues to higher courts in coming days,” defence lawyer Kirit Pawala said.
Prosecution lawyer Kirit Reshamwala and MLA Purnesh Modi said they were “satisfied with the court order”. Talking to media, the BJP MLA said, “I belong to Modhwanik Ghanchi community which bears the Modi surname. The defamatory statements of Rahul Gandhi had hurt our sentiments…and for that, we have registered a complaint against him. Today, we are satisfied with the order passed by the court.” The MLA’s supporters present outside the courtroom chanted slogans in his support.
Advocate Hasmukh Lalwala, Purnesh Modi’s earlier lawyer, said, “In the beginning, while drafting the complaint, we were sure that this case is a strong case for conviction as per the defamatory statements made by Rahul Gandhi.”
The case against Gandhi was lodged under sections 499 (Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said to defame that person) and 500 (whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both) of the Indian Penal Code.