Defamation case | Gujarat High Court posts Rahul Gandhi’s plea for final hearing on May 2

Rahul Gandhi challenged the order in the Surat sessions court along with an application seeking a stay to the conviction. While granting him bail, the court on April 20 refused to stay the conviction.

April 29, 2023 02:11 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - Ahmedabad

Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued on behalf of Rahul Gandhi in gujarat high court declining a stay to his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. | file photo

Senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued on behalf of Rahul Gandhi in gujarat high court declining a stay to his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. | file photo

The Gujarat High Court on April 29 posted Rahul Gandhi’s plea challenging a Surat court order declining to stay his conviction in a criminal defamation case for final hearing on May 2.

The court has asked the lawyers of Mr. Gandhi as well as the State government to file their reply by May 2 when the court will hear the final arguments. 

During the hearing on Saturday, senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi while appearing for the former Congress president told the High Court that “very serious ex-facie vitiating factors” about the trial’s process led to the conviction of Mr. Gandhi in the defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark. 

Mr. Singhvi in detailed arguments quoting several judgements of the Supreme Court and various High Courts contended that there was “prima facie” no case of defamation in the first place. 

The case was filed by the BJP legislator Purnesh Modi over Mr. Gandhi’s remarks at a political rally in Karnataka during the the last parliamentary election. 

Mr. Singhvi on Saturday submitted that the complainant Mr. Modi had no “locus standi” in the first place and voiced concerns over the way the trial was conducted by the magisterial court in Surat. 

Also read: Defamation perils: on the Rahul Gandhi case

“There are very serious ex-facie vitiating factors of the trial that raise grave apprehension about the process of trial which led to the conviction. In the case of a public servant or a legislator, it has very serious additional irreversible consequences - to the person, the constituency, and also drastic consequences of re-election,” he told the court.

In March this year, a metropolitan magistrate’s court in Surat found Mr. Gandhi guilty of criminal defamation and sentenced him to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation). 

Subsequent to the court ruling, Mr. Gandhi, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, was disqualified as an MP under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

Later, the Surat Sessions court declined to stay the conviction in the matter. If the conviction is stayed, he can be reinstated as the Member of Lok Sabha. 

On Wednesday, High Court judge Justice Gita Gopi recused herself from hearing the case after it was brought before her for an urgent hearing. The matter was then assigned to the court of Justice Hemant Prachchhak.

On Saturday, Mitesh Amin, Government Pleader, argued for the State opposing the granting of stay on the conviction. 

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