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Rahul Gandhi Refuses to Be Silenced Despite being Disqualified

Rahul Gandhi, leader of Congress (the main opposition party of India’s parliament), was disqualified after being convicted in a defamation case in the court of Gujarat. He has been sentenced to two years in jail.

Gandhi’s response since his conviction was that "They don’t want that speech to be in parliament; that’s the issue.”

According to Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, Gandhi’s remarks about the “Modi surname” during a speech in 2019 were considered derogatory toward the Prime Minister’s surname. The statement also allegedly targeted those whose surname was Modi which is associated with the lower class of India’s caste system.

Moreover, during a 2019 rally in Karnataka, Gandhi said, “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” Gandhi’s lawyer Babu Mangukiya found Gandhi guilty under Indian Penal Code sections 499 and 500. He was also granted bail and his sentence was suspended for thirty days so he could appeal in a higher court.

In his defense, Gandhi said, “he was fighting to expose corruption in the country.” According to his lawyer, the comment was not meant to hurt or insult any community. Furthermore, Gandhi stated, “I have been disqualified because the prime minister is scared of my next speech. He is scared of the next speech that is going to come on Adani.

Congress and its allies have called for an investigation to look into the investments made by state-run firms in Adani companies and the handover of the management of six airports to the group in recent years, despite inexperience in the field. In addition, Indian billionaire and chairman of Adani Group, Gautam Adani and Modi, are from Gujarat and have long-term ties since Modi was the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat. However, the group has denied receiving any special favors from the government.

The court verdict[1]  for Rahul Gandhi faced criticism as many felt it curtailed freedom of speech. “It is the job of the public and the opposition to ask questions. We respect the court but disagree with the decision,” said Priyanka Chaturvedi, a member of the upper house of parliament.

The rival politician Arvind Kejriwal disagreed with the verdict in a tweet, saying, “A conspiracy is being hatched to eliminate non-BJP leaders and parties by prosecuting them. We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this”. Party members feel that these actions are being taken to silence Rahul Gandhi as he asks uncomfortable questions

In another tweet, Gautam Bhatia, a legal scholar, said, “Defamation law 101 is that references to a generic class of persons are not actionable unless an individual can show a direct reference to themselves. If a man says 'all lawyers are thieves,' I - a random lawyer - can’t file a case against him for defamation unless I can show it’s an imputation aimed at me,".

According to political analysts, the court ruling will further help the BJP to suppress Gandhi. Members of the parliament from BJP have halted parliamentary proceedings over demands that Gandhi apologizes for his statement made during a speech at Cambridge University where he declared that democracy was under threat from the Modi government.

 Edited by: Ashleyn Wagner


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