BJP leader Purnesh Modi, the complainant in the Modi Surname Defamation Case, has filed a caveat before the Supreme Court in anticipation of Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against the Gujarat High Court’s refusal to stay his conviction. The caveat was filed on July 7, after the Gujarat High Court refused to stay Rahul Gandhi’s conviction.
A caveat is pleading to inform the court that the opposite party may file a case before the court, so the court is to hear both sides before passing any order if a caveat is filed.
On July 7, the Gujarat High Court refused to stay Disqualified Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in the Modi Surname Defamation Case. The court said that there are no reasonable grounds to stay his conviction, meaning that Rahul Gandhi would remain disqualified as an MP. The court finished hearing the case on May 2 and reserved its order.
“(Gandhi) is seeking a stay on conviction on absolutely non-existent grounds. Stay on conviction is not a rule. As many as 10 cases are pending against (Gandhi). It is needed to have purity in politics…A complaint has been filed against (Gandhi) by the grandson of Veer Savarkar in Pune Court after Gandhi used terms against Veer Savarkar at Cambridge…Refusal to stay conviction would not in any way result in injustice to the applicant. There are no reasonable grounds to stay conviction. The conviction is just, proper and legal,” the court said while pronouncing the order.
It is pertinent to note that the restoration of Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership was subject to suspension of his conviction and issuance of notification from the Lok Sabha Secretariat for the same.
Surat Sessions Court Refuses to Stay Rahul Gandhi’s Conviction
On April 20, the Surat Sessions Court dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s application seeking a stay on conviction in the Modi Surname Defamation Case for his remark “Why all thieves share the Modi surname” during his political campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The former Congress MP challenged his conviction before the Surat Sessions Court along with two applications accompanied by his appeal, one for suspension of his sentence and the other for suspension of his conviction. Thereafter, the Additional Sessions Judge at Surat, Robin P Mogera, suspended the sentence imposed against Rahul Gandhi on April 3 and granted him bail pending a hearing of his appeal.
Rahul Gandhi’s counsel argued that the complainant BJP leader Purnesh Modi cannot be termed as an ‘aggrieved person’ and hence was not authorized to file the complaint. Furthermore, the counsel argued the concept of the expression ‘Modi’ being an association of persons becomes entirely unacceptable. Rahul Gandhi’s counsel also submitted that the complaint was filed with a political motive.
The complainant’s counsel argued that Rahul Gandhi had the knowledge that his remarks would harm the reputation of ‘Modi’ surname holders and such statements were made only with a view to earn political gain.
The court rejected Rahul Gandhi’s counsel’s arguments and held that the complainant’s complaint was maintainable as he is an “ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society.”
Furthermore, the court noted, “So far as imposing of maximum punishment is concerned, it would be worthwhile to observe that the Appellant was not an ordinary person and was sitting MP, connected with public life. Any word spoken by Appellant would have large impact in mind of common public.”
“Moreover, high standard of morality is expected from a person like Appellant and the Ld. Trial Court had inflicted sentence, which was permissible in law. Further, it appears from record that all opportunities were accorded to Appellant for cross-examining the witnesses and hence I do not agree with the contentions of Ld. Senior Advocate Mr. Cheema about appellant being deprived of fair trial,” the court added.
The court said, “It is not disputed fact that the Appellant was the Member of Parliament and President of the second largest political party and looking to such stature of Appellant he should have been more careful with his words, which would have large impact on the mind of people. Any defamatory words coming from the mouth of Appellant are sufficient enough to cause mental agony to aggrieved person.”
“In this case, by uttering defamatory words viz. comparing persons having surname ‘Modi’ with thieves would definitely have caused mental agony and harm the reputation of complainant, who is socially active and dealing in public,” the court added.
The court held, “removal or disqualification as Member of Parliament cannot be termed as irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to the Appellant, as envisaged by Hon’ble Gujarat High Court in Naranbhai Bhikhabhai Kachhadia’s case.”
Therefore, the court dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s application seeking a stay on conviction. The Court concluded, “An application Exh.5 – preferred by Appellant Mr. Rahul Gandhi u/s.389 and 389(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for staying the conviction imposed by the judgment and order dated 23/3/2023 by the Ld. Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat in Criminal Case No.18712/2019 is hereby dismissed.”
Rahul Gandhi’s Disqualification
On March 23, a Surat Court convicted Rahul Gandhi in the Modi Surname Defamation Case and sentenced him to two years imprisonment over his remark wherein he repeatedly asked, “Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. How come they all have Modi as common surname? How come all the thieves have Modi as common surname?” during his political campaign for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat issued the notification of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification on March 24. It is pertinent to note that u/s 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, “a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for no less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a period of six years since his release.” The provision provides for automatic disqualification of an MP, MLA or MLC from the date of conviction when such elected representative is convicted for not less than two years.