'I am fighting for the voice of India': Rahul Gandhi's first response after getting disqualified as an MP!

In an unprecedented event, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has on Friday - March 24 announced that Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified as an MP from the lower house after he was convicted in a criminal defamation case with a two-year jail term. Though the sentence was suspended, the conviction holds validity based on which the Congress leader was disqualified. 

The grim development has triggered a fresh round of political furores even as Rahul Gandhi is discussing with his legal team on the way forward as he is in a state where if he fails in his appeal of suspending or overturning the conviction that was pronounced by a Surat court in Gujarat from a higher court, he can't be able to contest in the elections for the next eight years, including his two-year prison sentence, according to the Representatives of People Act, 1951.

As Rahul Gandhi is bracing up a big setback, several leaders from the opposition parties across the country have come in solidarity to support him and to beef up their attack on the Modi regime. Amidst in the national spotlight over his next move, Rahul Gandhi reacted for the first time about his disqualification. Taking to Twitter, Rahul Gandhi wrote in Hindi, "I am fighting for the voice of India. I am ready to pay every price." 

The announcement of Rahul Gandhi's disqualification was made on Friday, a day after a Surat court in Gujarat found Rahul Gandhi guilty in the defamation case connected to his 'Modi surname' remark. In an official notification, the Lok Sabha Secretariat said, "Consquent upon his conviction by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat in C.C./18712/2019, Shri Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March, 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951." 

With this, Rahul Gandhi would be disqualified as an MP and his privileges would be suspended. As per the legal experts, Rahul Gandhi would quash this disqualification and would get reinstated as an MP after the conviction and prison sentence from the court got revoked. The case in which Rahul Gandhi was convicted is four-year old and it was filed against him after he made a remark about Modi surname. 

In 2019, during the campaign trail of the Lok Sabha polls, Rahul Gandhi was addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka during which he said, "Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi...how come they all have common surnames? How come all the thieves have 'Modi' as surnames?" As his remark gained traction, BJP MLA in Gujarat, Purnesh Modi lodged a complaint against Rahul Gandhi. In his complaint, Purnesh Modi claimed that Rahul Gandhi's remark has defamed the entire 'Modi' community. Based on his plaint, a criminal defamation case was filed against the Congress leader in Gujarat under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

The matter was heard by a Surat court and on Thursday, the court bench led by Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma pronounced the verdict and said that Rahul Gandhi was found guilty to the charges under Section 499- Defamation and 500 - punishment for Defamation under IPC. As the maximum possible punishment under this section is two years, Rahul Gandhi was awarded two-year prison sentence and a fine of Rs 15,000. However, Rahul Gandhi has moved a bail plea and he was swiftly granted bail by the court. 

As the Congress leader has been conferred with a bail, his prison sentence has been suspended and the court has granted to enable Rahul Gandhi to move an appeal against the prison sentence within thirty days. However, the legal experts hinted that Gandhi would most likely be disqualified as though the sentence was suspended, conviction holds validity and that he has to quash the conviction to avoid disqualification. He has now been disqualified and is now working with his legal team to repeal the conviction.

As per the law, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, mandates the disqualification of any politician who is convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years. The law also mandates that a convicted legislator cannot contest elections for six years after the end of incarceration. The risk factor here is - Rahul Gandhi can't be able to contest in the 2024 general elections if his conviction is not suspended or overturned by a higher court. Though the bail can grant him to avoid jail term, the overturning of the entire conviction is the only legal remedy for Rahul Gandhi to take back what he has lost.