Surat court rejects Rahul Gandhi’s appeal for conviction stay

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A local court in Surat dismissed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s application to stay the conviction in the criminal defamation case regarding the “Modi surname” remark he had made at an election rally in Kolar, Karnataka, in 2019, and upheld the magistrate’s order in his conviction, reported The Indian Express.

Additional Sessions Judge Robin P Mogera pronounced the verdict dismissing the application against the conviction which Gandhi’s lawyers had called, “harsh and highly excessive”.

Meanwhile, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet they will “continue to avail all options still available to us under the law.”

Gandhi’s lawyer Ranjeet Cheema had said the magistrate’s order was “strange” because the trial court judge “made a hotchpotch of all the evidence on record and the defamatory imputation is neither proved nor intention to defame Modis is proved”.

The conviction came on the complaint lodged by former Gujarat minister and BJP MLA from Surat West Purnesh Modi.

Purnesh Modi, who was represented by advocates Ketan Reshamwala and Harshit Toliya, submitted that on the day of conviction, a large number of Congress leaders, including chief ministers and party presidents of different states, had come to Surat and “this has been done to pressurise the judiciary”.

The complainant argued, “While filing the appeal, Rahul Gandhi and several other Congress leaders had come to Surat, to show off”.

Gandhi was convicted on 23 March by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat, H H Varma and awarded two-year simple imprisonment, the maximum sentence in such cases, which was suspended for 30 days to allow him to appeal. Soon after the conviction, Gandhi was disqualified from Parliament.

On 3 April, Rahul Gandhi along with his sister and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had come to Surat to submit an appeal in Judge Mogera’s court to seek a stay on the conviction as well as the suspension of the sentence.

Gandhi was represented by Surat-based lawyer Kirit Panwala and Supreme Court lawyer Ranjeet Cheema, and had got bail till the appeal period.

The Gujarat Government, which was a respondent, was represented by District government pleader Nayan Sukhadawala who did not make any submission.

Sukhadawala had told The Indian Express then, “I was to put my submission before the court today, but all the points which I had in mind were put before the judge by the complainant’s lawyer.”

The Gujarat Government and Purnesh Modi were given time till 11 April to file their replies, reads the report.

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