Indian court hears opposition leader’s appeal against libel conviction

New Delhi, Apr 13 (EFE).- An Indian court on Thursday held a hearing on the appeal against the criminal defamation conviction of opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, sentenced to two years in prison over a speech ostensibly targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The hearing was held at the sessions court in Surat, in the western state of Gujarat, where the defense lawyers of the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family called for the revocation of the sentence that was imposed over his comment that “all thieves have Modi as their surname,” apparently referring to two fugitives from justice wanted for fraud and corruption, who are not related to the prime minister.

This was seen as an attack against the prime minister, although the prosecution said that the comments also insulted an entire community by targeting the leader’s caste.

However, Gandhi’s defense team on Thursday objected to a series of elements in the sentence, including the jurisdiction of the court in Gujarat, the prime minister’s home state, as the opposition leader had made the speech in a different city.

Another court in Patna, a city in the northern state of Bihar, on Wednesday summoned the leader of the main opposition party Indian National Congress, for a hearing on Apr. 25 for a case linked to the same speech.

“The more the Bharatiya Janata Party (ruling party) attacks me, the more I know that I am on the right path,” Gandhi said in a recent speech, insisting that he won’t “stop asking questions” and will keep raising voice.

He was granted bail in Surat last week in the defamation case, although his consequent disqualification as a member of the parliament may threaten his role in next year’s general elections.

As per Indian law, any lawmaker handed a prison sentence of two years or more is disqualified from fighting elections, a ban which continues for years even after the sentence has been served.

Gandhi has alleged that the disqualification was linked to his criticism of Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, a figure close to the prime minister who has been facing fraud allegations. EFE


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