New Delhi, July 21: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine the plea filed by former Congress President Rahul Gandhi against the Gujarat High Court’s verdict denying to put a stay on his conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ defamation case.
A bench comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra issued a notice on the question as to whether the conviction should be suspended or not.
The bench was not inclined to pass any interim relief on Gandhi’s prayer for suspension of his sentence. The High Court’s refusal to stay his conviction and two-year jail term in a criminal defamation case, has cost the Congress leader his Lok Sabha membership.
“Issue Notice. The complainant, who appears on caveat, waives notice. Liberty to serve the state of Gujarat through the standing counsel. Learned Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani seeks 10 days time to file written submissions,” recorded the top court in its order.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, requested the court for an early hearing as Gandhi could not attend the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament and the Election Commission could anytime announce bypoll to the Wayanad constituency.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the complainant BJP MLA in the defamation case, sought a period of at least 10 days to assist the court on questions of law and facts involved in the case.
The court sought responses of the Gujarat government and others on Rahul Gandhi’s plea. It posted the matter for hearing on August 4.
At the outset, Justice B.R. Gavai offered to recuse from hearing the matter on the ground of political affiliation of his family members.
“My father was associated with Congress. He was not a member but he was closely associated. My brother is still in politics and he is in Congress. Please take a call if you want me to hear this,” he said.
However, neither side raised any objection on hearing of the plea by Justice Gavai.
Earlier, the Supreme Court on Tuesday had agreed to hear on July 21 after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, sought urgent listing of the matter.
On July 15, the Congress leader had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat high court’s order where a bench of Justice Hemant Prachchhak had observed that granting a stay on his conviction would be an exception, and not a rule.
Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a Member of Parliament in March, after a Surat court convicted him and sentenced him to two years in prison for his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname” remark made during an election rally in Karnataka in April 2019.
Rahul Gandhi’s 2019 remark was interpreted as an attempt to draw an implicit connection between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi.
In March, the sessions court in Surat had dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s plea seeking suspension of his conviction by the magistrate court, stating that his disqualification will not result in an irreversible loss to him.
The Congress leader was disqualified under a rule that bars convicted MPs from holding Lok Sabha membership.