Indian court rejects key opposition leader’s appeal in defamation case

New Delhi, Apr 20 (EFE).- An appeals court in western India on Thursday rejected key opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s petition to suspend his two-year sentence in a defamation case which has led to him being disqualified from the parliament, casting doubts over his political future just over a year before general elections.

Specialized portal Live Law reported that the sessions court in Surat, in the western state of Gujarat, on Thursday quashed Gandhi’s petition from Apr. 13, which sought a suspension of his two-year prison term for defamation announced by a lower court over comments made during a 2019 speech targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The verdict means that Gandhi’s disqualification as member of the parliament remains in place, while his participation in the 2024 general elections also remains doubtful.

The leader of the Indian National Congress party was convicted in March, although he was granted bail on Apr. 3 as his appeal against the verdict is being heard in higher courts.

The controversy stems from his comment that “all thieves have Modi as their surname,” apparently referring to two fugitives from Indian 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, leading to a case being filed in Gujarat – Modi’s home state – despite the speech having taken place elsewhere.

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.

The opposition leader can challenge the sessions court decision in a higher judicial body, although the same court in Surat is set to hear another appeal by Gandhi challenging his conviction. EFE


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