Rahul Gandhi disqualified from Lok Sabha after conviction; says he is fighting for India’s voice


A day after his conviction in a criminal defamation case, Lok Sabha MP and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was on Friday disqualified from the Lok Sabha membership.

The Lok Sabha Secretariat in its notification said, “Consequent upon his conviction by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat…, Rahul Gandhi, Lok Sabha MP representing Wayanad Parliamentary constituency of Kerala, stands disqualified from the membership of the lower house from the date of his conviction…”

This order was issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat on Friday and was signed by Secretary General, Lok Sabha.

Surat district court in Gujarat on Thursday convicted Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case against him over his alleged ‘Modi surname’ remark in 2019.

Gandhi was convicted under Indian Penal Code sections 499 and 500. The maximum possible punishment under this section is two years.

BJP MLA and former Gujarat Minister Purnesh Modi had filed the case against Rahul Gandhi for his alleged “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?…” remark.Hours after being expelled from the Parliament following his conviction in a criminal defamation case, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Friday that he is ready to pay any price for expressing the voice of India.

“I am fighting for India’s voice… Ready to pay any price,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

On Friday morning, Rahul Gandhi was suspended from the Lok Sabha following his conviction in a criminal defamation case. The Lok Sabha Secretariat also declared his constituency in Kerala’s Wayanad as vacant.

According to the Representation of the People Act, a lawmaker sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving prison time.

On Thursday morning, a court in Surat found Rahul Gandhi guilty and sentenced him to two years in prison in a 2019 criminal defamation case over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname. The Congress leader, however, was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to allow him to appeal the Surat court verdict.

The case was filed against Rahul Gandhi by BJP MLA and ex-Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi for saying “how come all thieves have the common surname Modi” while campaigning in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Gandhi, post his conviction by a Surat court, is facing a peculiar situation after the Lok Sabha Secretariat announced his disqualification as member from Kerala’s Wayanad constituency – first, the disqualification, which has come into effect in accordance with the apex court judgment in Lily Thomas case in 2013 and second, how a stay on his conviction would annul the Lok Sabha Secretariat notification.

In the Lily Thomas case, the apex court declared that an MP or an MLA would stand disqualified immediately upon conviction.

According to experts, Gandhi must challenge the trial court order convicting him under IPC’s Sections 499 and 500, having the maximum possible punishment of two years and also challenge the notification pertaining to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.

Speaking to IANS, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra said after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Lilly Thomas, which was reaffirmed in Lok Prahari matter in 2018, it is very clear that once the conviction takes place and sentence for two years comes into the picture, disqualification happens and the Lok Sabha Secretariat notification is the administrative aspect of it.

Luthra, a former Additional Solicitor General, further added that if Gandhi secures a stay of conviction, then he can go to the Lok Sabha Speaker and request to withdraw the notification or keep the notification in abeyance, and the stay of conviction will allow him to fight the 2024 election.

Interestingly, Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal P.P. is still awaiting entry into the lower House, even though the Kerala High Court stayed his conviction and 10-year sentence in January this year.

Senior advocate Aman Lekhi said Gandhi should secure a stay on the conviction and sentence from the higher court and he should also challenge the notification issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

Lekhi, also a former Additional Solicitor General, clarified that the notification is not illegal against the backdrop of the apex court judgment, but in the overall picture, it appears that the notification was issued in haste. He further added that the Election Commission should also hold its hand, after Gandhi’s disqualification from the Wayanad parliamentary constituency, in announcing a by-election.

Former Chief Election Commissioner of India S.Y. Quraishi said after Gandhi’s conviction is stayed by the court, the Lok Sabha Secretariat notification would be annulled. He further added that the notification is bad optics and points at desperation shown by the government.

Related posts