India opposition leader Rahul Gandhi gets 2-year jail in 2019 defamation case
New Delhi, Mar 23 (EFE).- An Indian court on Thursday found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, a scion of the once-dominant Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, guilty of defamation for questioning “why all the thieves” share the Modi surname during a political campaign in April 2019.
The court in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave Gandhi, 52, two years in jail in suspended sentencing, giving the convicted politician time to appeal the verdict.
The Indian National Congress leader refused to apologize for the remarks, saying his fight against the alleged rising corruption in the country would continue.
The prosecution argued before the court that Gandhi was a lawmaker and “what message does it carry that a parliamentarian like him break laws,” a prosecution lawyer told reporters outside the court in the western state.
“The prosecution demanded the maximum punishment and fine for him and the complainant be given the compensation,” the lawyer said.
Gandhi made the controversial remarks as he canvassed for the last general election in the southern state of Karnataka.
“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 Indian National Congress has been relentlessly accusing the federal government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of helping the fugitives escape Indian law.
Gandhi tweeted in his defense, invoking Mahatma Gandhi. “My dharma is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my god, and non-violence is the means to get (to the truth).”
The Indian National Congress alleged that Modi was trying to stop opposition leaders and non-BJP lawmakers who were speaking in parliament against the rising graft in the country.
Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Vadra, a Congress leader, said the entire government machinery was “scared of” Gandhi and up against her brother.
“My brother has never been scared, nor will he ever be. He has lived speaking the truth. He will continue to speak the truth. He will continue to raise the people’s voice,” Vadra tweeted. “The power of truth and the love of millions of countrymen are with him.”
The sentencing follows days of protests in the Indian parliament by ruling BJP lawmakers, who have blocked the two houses, seeking an apology for Gandhi’s allegedly derogatory comments about the democracy in India in the United Kingdom. EFE