Rahul Gandhi tore ordinance in 2013 for 3-month protection from disqualification

Mar 24, 2023 01:41 AM IST

Rahul Gandhi called the ordinance utter nonsense and suggested it should be torn into pieces before proceeding to do just that to a printout to prove his point.

Ten years after he lashed out at an ordinance passed by his own government that gave convicted lawmakers a three month reprieve to retain their seats, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is set to be disqualified under the same Supreme Court judgement that the executive order sought to nullify.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi arriving at Surat district court. (PTI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi arriving at Surat district court. (PTI)

After his conviction in Surat district in a criminal defamation case on Thursday, Gandhi’s disqualification is imminent. The Congress’ only opportunity to overturn his disqualification is to get a stay order from higher court, which, the party said, its legal team will pursue.

Also read: 'Surat court asked him again and again… He refused': Minister on Rahul Gandhi

On September 28, 2013, Gandhi dubbed the ordinance “complete nonsense” and recommended it should be “torn apart” after the UPA government’s cabinet approved the executive order to protect leaders from disqualification – a precedent set in the Lily Thomas vs Union of India case, where the Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers including MPs would immediately lose their membership if sentenced to a minimum term of two years.

The UPA government tried to overturn this judgement and retain section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People’s Act that allowed lawmakers to not be disqualified for three months even if they are convicted.

Supreme Court lawyers Upamanyu Hazarika and Muhammad Khan argued that the key factor in the judgement of the Surat High Court that convicted and sentenced the Congress leader is that Gandhi’s sentence of two years of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 has been suspended for 30 days.

Khan said Gandhi and the Congress’ legal team is not going to waste any time now and will move a high court (possibly the Gujarat HC) to get a stay on the Surat Court’s order. The party may have to do this because this was a criminal defamation case, and the appellate court in such cases is always the sessions one, which means Gandhi himself can’t appeal to the high court. To be sure, even as this in progress, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha can disqualify him based on the court’s judgement. The Supreme Court order gives the presiding officer little to no discretion in this matter.

Also read: Kharge calls Oppn meet over Surat court order against Rahul Gandhi

The case was filed against the former Congress chief for his “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remark. This prompted BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi to file a police complaint.

Purnesh Modi maintained that Gandhi’s remarks at a rally at Kolar in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections defamed the entire Modi community.

Section 500 of the IPC, which applied in Rahul Gandhi’s case, says “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

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