The Supreme Court is slated to hear, on Friday, the plea filed by former Congress President Rahul Gandhi against the Gujarat High Court's verdict refusing a stay on his conviction in the ‘Modi surname' defamation case, which cost him his Lok Sabha membership.
As per the cause list published on the apex court website, a bench of Justices B.R. Gavai, P.S. Narasimha, and Prashant Kumar Mishra will continue to hear Gandhi’s plea.
The Supreme Court on July 21 agreed to examine the special leave petition filed by the Congress leader and issued notice on the question as to whether his conviction should be suspended pending appeal.
Declining to pass any interim relief on Gandhi’s plea without hearing the both sides, it had granted a 10-days period to complainant BJP MLA Purnesh Modi and others to file written submissions and posted the matter for further hearing on August 4.
In written pleadings,Gandhi has stated in a rejoinder affidavit filed before court that he was described as "arrogant" by the complainant because he had refused to apologise in the 'Modi surname' defamation case. It said that Gandhi has always maintained that he is not guilty of offence and "if he had to apologise and compound the offence, he would have done it much earlier".
The counter-affidavit filed by the BJP MLA said that Gandhi displayed "arrogance" and his petition before the Supreme Court "deserves to be dismissed with exemplary costs." It said that Gandhi made the defamatory statement out of "personal hatred" towards an elected Prime Minister of the country, and “deserves no sympathy” on the question of the sentence imposed.
The Supreme Court had agreed to hear the plea on July 21 after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for 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.
Gandhi was disqualified as an MP 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. Gandhi's 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 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. According to legal experts, if the top court stays Rahul Gandhi's conviction, it would be sufficient to restore his Lok Sabha membership.