SC issues notice to Purnesh Modi, Guj govt on Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against HC verdict

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought responses from former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi and the state government on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal challenging the high court verdict which dismissed his plea seeking a stay on his conviction in a defamation case over his “Modi surname” remark.

A bench of Justices B R Gavai and P K Mishra issued notices to Purnesh Modi, who had filed a criminal defamation case in 2019 against Gandhi over his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remark made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019, and the Gujarat government on Gandhi’s appeal.

“The limited question at this stage is whether the conviction deserves to be stayed,” the bench observed.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Gandhi, said the Congress leader has suffered for 111 days, lost one Parliament session and is about to lose another session.

The apex court has posted the matter for further hearing on August 4.

In his appeal filed on July 15, Gandhi has said that if the July 7 judgment is not stayed, it would lead to throttling of free speech, expression, thought, and statement.

The Congress leader was disqualified as a Member of Parliament on March 24 after a Gujarat court convicted him and sentenced him to a two-year imprisonment on charges of criminal defamation for comments he made about the Modi surname.

A stay on Gandhi’s conviction could have paved the way for his reinstatement as a Lok Sabha MP but he failed to get any relief from either the sessions court or the Gujarat High Court.

But, the apex court may have to look into such unsavory remarks are justifiable under ‘freedom of expression’?  This is not the first time Rahul Gandhi has made such remarks against either the Prime Minister or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Supreme Court has indeed chided him on several occasions in the past too in similar defamation cases.  His remarks are also against Veer Savarkar is unpardonable.  In that context, the Nation is watching closely how the apex court will react.