India court suspends opposition lawmaker’s conviction in 2019 Modi surname defamation case

New Delhi, Aug 4 (EFE).- India’s top court Friday suspended the conviction of opposition leader Rahul Gandhi in a 2019 criminal defamation case for mocking the Modi surname during a political campaign.

Gandhi, a scion of the once-dominant Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, was disqualified as a parliamentarian in March after a lower court convicted him and sentenced him to two years in prison.

His party, the Indian National Congress, vowed that it would seek to have Gandhi reinstated as a member of the lower house of parliament.

The Supreme Court said the trial court did not provide sufficient reasons for convicting and sentencing Gandh.

“(Rahul Gandhi’s parliamentary membership) has been restored. The Supreme Court has given its verdict. He will be reinstated immediately,” a defense lawyer told the media outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi.

The top court remarked that Gandhi’s disqualification affected not only his right but also that of the electorate.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress leader of opposition in the lower house of parliament, said the court decision laid bare the conspiracy against Gandhi.

“The entire country must watch. The world must watch… Rahul Gandhi’s victory is the victory of the truth,” he said.

Chowdhury anticipated a delay by the government to reinstate Gandhi, who shares a bitter ideological rivalry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The government might try to delay his reinstatement. But we urge them not to delay the process.”

Gandhi made the controversial remarks as he canvassed for the last general election in the southern state of Karnataka in 2019.

“Why all the thieves, be it, Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names,” the Congress leader allegedly said during the rally, referring to a common surname in western India, especially in the Gujarat state.

Gandhi had named diamond magnate Nirav Modi, accused of defrauding a state-run bank of over $2 billion before fleeing to the United Kingdom.

Cricket czar Lalit Modi, who allegedly lives in Britain, is wanted in a money laundering and tax evasion case after allegations that a facilitation fee of $90 million was paid by one company to another for obtaining telecast rights for the Indian Premier League.

The two Modis are not related to each other or the prime minister, even as the Congress relentlessly accuses the federal government of the BJP of helping the fugitives escape Indian law.

The Supreme Court said Gandhi’s remarks were not “in good taste,” and that a public figure like him should be more careful.

Gandhi’s dismissal as a lawmaker sparked protests from opposition parties, accusing Modi of using his power to target the opposition leader.

The case was filed in Gujarat, Modi’s home state, even as Gandhi made the comment during a rally in the southern state of Karnataka. EFE


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