Explained: What Is 2018 And 2019 Defamation Case Against Rahul Gandhi

Explained: What Is 2018 And 2019 Defamation Case Against Rahul Gandhi

A special court granted bail to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for "defamatory" advertisements in national newspapers that accused the Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of corruption during the 2019–2023 government.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Friday, June 07, 2024, 01:39 PM IST
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Rahul Gandhi | File Pic

The Bengaluru High Court on Friday granted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi bail in the Amit Shah defamation case.

What was the subject of the defamation lawsuit, and is Gandhi the target of any other lawsuits for defamation? Let us go in-depth.

The Incident Of 2018

The hearing in the 2018 defamation case involving Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his alleged disparaging remarks made to Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been postponed by an MP-MLA court in the city.

According to the Congress leader's attorney, Kashi Prasad Shukla, the postponement until June 18 was necessitated by the demise of a lawyer, leading to a condolence meeting on Friday, PTI reported.

In the complaint, the BJP claimed that the Congress's "false campaigning" and the advertisements in local newspapers leading up to the 2023 state assembly elections had tarnished the BJP's reputation. The case was registered by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy CM DK Shivakumar, and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi was given bail; he had already appeared in court for the defamation case in February. Gandhi was the target of an arrest warrant last December, following the case's inception by BJP politician Vijay Mishra.

On February 20, Gandhi responded by calling off his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Amethi and showing up in court to obtain bail.

The complaint was filed on August 4, 2018, in response to statements Gandhi is said to have made about Shah at a press conference in Bengaluru during the Karnataka elections.

Gandhi's comments criticizing the BJP, in which he claimed the party's dedication to truthful politics ran counter to the fact that its president was "accused" of murder, were cited by the complainant. These remarks were made when Shah was the president of the BJP.

Recent Developments In The Case

A Bengaluru special court on Friday granted bail to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the defamation case filed by the Karnataka BJP . Rahul was seen at the Delhi airport in the morning leaving for the court hearings. The hearing has been postponed to June 18.

Another Defamation Case: Rahul Gandhi VS Purnesh Modi

The narrative commences in 2019, prior to the 17th Lok Sabha General elections. On April 13, 2019, Rahul Gandhi said, "In sab choron ke naam Modi, Modi, Modi, Kyun hai?" during a public event in Kolar, Karnataka. Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi” Why are all these thieves named Modi? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi. Due to the numerous criminal defamation suits sparked by these remarks, he was removed from the Lok Sabha four years later, in March 2023.

The Magistrate Court Tale

Purnesh Modi, a BJP MLA, filed a criminal defamation case against Rahul Gandhi on April 16, 2019, in Surat, using Sections 499, 500, and 504 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The whole Modi community, he said, was maligned by Rahul Gandhi's statements. The Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Surat filed the case in May 2019.

Rahul Gandhi maintained his statement that his comments were focused on corruption and were not directed towards any community. 

The Magistrate Court convicted Rahul Gandhi guilty on March 23, 2023. Sentenced to two years in prison, and they found him guilty of criminal defamation. But the court allowed him to appeal to the High Court, suspended his sentence, and received bail.

Disqualification from the Lok Sabha

Following his conviction, he lost his right to serve in Parliament. On March 24, 2023, the Lok Sabha Secretariat sent out a notification to the Election Commission of India and other offices regarding the disqualification.

According to the notification, he was declared ineligible under Article 102 (1)(e) of the Indian Constitution and Section 8 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 (RPA). Members of Parliament may be removed from office "upon conviction for certain offenses," as defined by Section 8 of the RPA, which carries a minimum two-year jail sentence. A member of Parliament may be disqualified in line with any national legislation by following the provisions of Article 102(1)(e).

Appeal at the Gujarat High Court

In an appeal to the Gujarat High Court, Rahul Gandhi requested a stay on the Magistrate Court's decision, citing the conviction as unconstitutional, disproportionate, and disruptive to the people of his Wayanad constituency. Rahul Gandhi's attorney, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, represented Rahul Gandhi in the case.

Since he was not the victim in the case, he contended, Purnesh Modi, the person who filed the criminal defamation lawsuit, lacked a legitimate basis or locus to pursue any kind of legal remedy.

The conviction was not overturned by the Gujarat High Court on July 7, 2023. In a 125-page ruling, Judge Hemant P. Prachchhak declared that Rahul Gandhi had violated his right to "modesty" and that his acts had shown "moral turpitude." He also referred to Rahul Gandhi as a "habitual offender," citing the numerous cases of defamation that are still pending against him.

Dr Singhvi expressed his disapproval of the Gujarat High Court's ruling, arguing that it was an infringement on the fundamental right to freedom of speech to ascribe "moral turpitude," a term commonly associated with crimes such as rape, kidnapping, and other "immoral" acts.

Lok Sabha Election Results

In the May 2023 state assembly elections, the Congress party registered a landslide victory, securing 135 seats to the 224-member Karnataka Assembly and ousting the ruling BJP. The BJP got 66 seats, and the Janata Dal-Secular got 19 seats.

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