Rahul Gandhi, a member of India’s Congress party, has been found guilty in a criminal defamation case filed against him in 2019. The case was related to his controversial “Modi surname” comment, which was made at a rally in Karnataka’s Kolar, in which he took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that “all the thieves have Modi as the common surname.”
Former Gujarat minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Purnesh Modi filed a complaint against Gandhi, alleging that he had defamed the entire Modi community with his remark. Gandhi was booked under sections 499 and 500 (defamation) and last appeared before the Surat court in October 2021 to record his statement.
The court sentenced Gandhi to two years in prison, but he was immediately granted bail. Gandhi’s lawyer had argued during the trial that the right procedure laid down under section 202 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was not followed, and the proceedings were flawed. The lawyer also argued that it should have been Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not Purnesh Modi, to have filed the complaint, as the speech was aimed against him.
Despite these arguments, the court found Gandhi guilty and suspended his sentence for 30 days so that he could appeal against the verdict in a higher court. Senior Congress leader and MLA Ajun Modhwadia claimed that the BJP had foisted false cases against Gandhi.
Gandhi was present in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. His comment had sparked controversy and led to a political slugfest between the Congress and BJP parties, with the latter accusing the former of resorting to “low-level politics”.
This verdict is likely to have political implications in India, as Gandhi is seen as a key leader of the Congress party, which is the main opposition to the BJP. The verdict may impact the upcoming state elections in various states, including Gujarat, where Purnesh Modi was a minister in the government, and Bhupendra Patel is currently the chief minister.