New Delhi: In a relief to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the Supreme Court, in an interim order on Friday, stayed his conviction in the criminal defamation case over the 'Modi surname' remark.
The apex court earlier in the day began hearing an appeal filed by the Congress leader challenging the Gujarat High Court order which declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case.
The apex court told Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Rahul Gandhi, that he will have to make out an exceptional case for a stay on conviction.
Singhvi said in his arguments that complainant Purnesh Modi’s original surname is not 'Modi' and he adopted this surname later. “Not a single of the persons Gandhi had named during his speech has sued.
This is a small community of 13 crore people and there is no uniformity or homogeneity. Who are aggrieved in this community are only people who are BJP office-holders and suing, Singhvi said. Referring to the earlier verdict in the case by a lower court, Singhvi said the judge treats this as a serious offence involving moral turpitude.
“This is a non-cognisable, bailable, and compoundable offence. The offence was not against society, not kidnapping, rape, or murder. How can this become an offence involving moral turpitude?” he argued.
“In a democracy, we have dissent, in a democracy we have disagreement. What we call ‘shaleen bhasha’. Gandhi is not a hardened criminal. There are many cases filed by BJP workers, but there was never any conviction. Gandhi has already missed two sessions of the Parliament,” he added.
The apex court issued notices to the Gujarat government and the complainant in July on an appeal of the Congress leader challenging the Gujarat High Court order.
The Gujarat HC had in its order declined to stay his conviction in the criminal defamation case in which Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years in jail by the Surat court over the 'Modi surname' remark.
After his conviction in the case, Gandhi was disqualified as MP from Kerala’s Wayanad on March 24. Earlier in March, a magisterial court convicted Rahul Gandhi for his ‘Modi’ surname remarks ahead of the 2019 national polls.