Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP on Friday, a day after a Surat court in Gujarat convicted him in a criminal defamation case and bestowed him a two-year prison sentence. Although the same court suspended the jail term and granted him a bail to appeal, the conviction wasn't overturned - due to which he was disqualified from the lower house.
Following the disqualification, the seat of Wayanad parliamentary constiituency, from where Rahul Gandhi got elected in 2019, was declared vacant. Rahul Gandhi was found guilty in the case of defaming the 'Modi surname'. During an election campaign in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi 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. Based on his plight, a criminal defamation case was filed against the Congress leader in Gujarat under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The Chief Judicial magistrate court in Surat was hearing the case and the verdict was pronounced on Thursday in which Judge HH Varma said that Rahul Gandhi was found guilty to the charges. 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.
Though Rahul Gandhi was granted bail, his disqualification had appeared to be imminent and it was announced on Friday. 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 or parliamentarian 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.
Rahul Gandhi is disqualified. But, historically speaking, he is not the first one to brace up such political setback. Let's take a look at the league of MPs and MLAs who were expunged after a conviction.
As a veteran Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh, Masood was the first MP to be disqualified from the Parliament. He was 66-year-old when disqualified. Masood was a 9-time MP - five times from Lok Sabha and the rest of the terms from Rajya Sabha. In 1990, he served as a Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare in the VP Singh government and after camping in several political parties, he finally joined Congress in 2011.
On September 19, 2013, Masood was found guilty by a special CBI court in a case of corruption. He was held guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool, while he was serving as the Union Health Minister. Following the conviction, Masood was sentenced to four years in jail. He was then disqualified as a Congress party's Rajya Sabha MP. In 2020, Masood died from the COVID complications at the age of 73.
Lalu Prasad Yadav:
Lalu Prasad Yadav is a familiar politician in the country and due to his familiarity, he can't escape from the spotlight after getting disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP. On October 3, 2013, a special CBI court had held Yadav guilty in the fodder scam case that shook the nation. During the conviction, Yadav was serving as a Lok Sabha MP from Saran in Bihar. After the verdict, he was disqualified.
Jayalalithaa was one of the powerful women in India and she served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for six times. She was also the chieftain of ADMK and she was disqualified as an MLA from the Tamil Nadu Assembly in September 2014 after she was sentenced to four years in jail in a disproportionate assets case. During the time of conviction, she was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and she resigned her post. She was briefly jailed in Bengaluru until a bail was granted and she again became the Chief Minister.
The Supreme Court in the early 2017 confirmed the special court's verdict of four-year prison sentence. However, when this verdict came, Jayalalithaa was no more and three of her co-accused including her close aide VK Sasikala had served four-year incarceration at Parappana Agrahara central prison in Bengaluru.
P P Mohammed Faizal:
Lakshadweep MP P P Mohammed Faizal was disqualified from the Lok Sabha in January 2023 after he was sentenced to 10-year prison sentence in connection with an attempt to murder case. Faizal was associated with Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party. Though the Kerala High Court later suspended his conviction and sentence, Faizal is yet to get reinstated as an MP and his seat too has been declared vacant in the house.
Azam Khan and his son Abdullah Azam Khan:
Khan was a Samajwadi party leader and he was disqualified as an MLA from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in October 2022 after a court sentenced him to three years in jail in a case of a hate speech in 2019. His son Abdullah Azam Khan was also associated with Samajwadi party and he was also disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in February 2023, days after a court sentenced him to two-year jail term in a 15-year-old case pertaining to a dharna on a highway in December 2017. During disqualification, he was serving as an MLA from the Suar assembly constituency.
Anant Singh was an MLA in Bihar from the Rashtriya Janata Dal. He was disqualified from the Bihar Assembly in July 2022 after being convicted in a case related to the recovery of arms and ammunition from his residence. Initially, he was with Janata Dal Party and in 2020, he joined Rashtriya Janata Dal. He was elected to Bihar assembly four times from the Mokama constituency and as per his electoral affidavit in 2020, he was facing 38 criminal charges including seven murders, eleven attempt to murder and four cases of kidnapping.
On 16 August 2019, Singh was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA), after the police confiscated an AK-47 rifle, a magazine, live cartridges and two hand grenades from the possession of Singh following a raid on his ancestral home. In 2020, he contested from the Mokama seat and won with 35,291 votes. However, in July 2022, he was disqualified after getting convicted in arms case.
Vikram Singh Saini and Kuldeep Singh Sengar:
Saini and Sengar were BJP MLAs in Uttar Pradesh. While Saini was disqualified from the state assembly as an MLA from Khatauli in October 2022 after he was sentenced to two-year jail term in 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case, Sengar was disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in February 2020 after he was convicted in a rape case. He was representing Unnao constituency and before the conviction, Sengar was expelled from the party.