According to eminent jurist Harish Salve, Rahul Gandhi's use of language in his "Modi surname" comment was highly disrespectful.
Salve believes that the Supreme Court's decision to suspend Gandhi's conviction was not based on the merits of the case, but rather on concerns for his constituency.
During an interview with NDTV, Harish Salve expressed disappointment in Rahul Gandhi's comments, stating that they were unexpected from someone of his stature as a public figure.
Harish Salve questioned the appropriateness of Rahul Gandhi's language, regardless of whether or not he should be convicted. Salve criticised Gandhi for making false accusations and using disrespectful language, especially considering his aspirations to become the prime minister of the country.
Salve highlighted that even the Supreme Court judges acknowledged that Rahul Gandhi's comments were wrong and should not have been made.
However, the decision to stay his conviction was primarily to ensure that his constituency remained represented until a decision on his appeal was reached, rather than being based on the merits of the case.
Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to a two-year prison term by a sessions court in Surat on March 23, following a speech he made during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign.
The Congress leader had been taken to court by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi, who objected to Gandhi's statement questioning the prevalence of the surname Modi among thieves.
Following his conviction, Rahul Gandhi, who serves as a Lok Sabha MP representing Wayanad in Kerala, was promptly disqualified. He appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, which temporarily halted his conviction.
The court acknowledged that Gandhi's comments were in poor taste, but expressed concern that his disqualification from parliament would negatively impact his constituents.
While acknowledging that Rahul Gandhi's remarks were indeed inappropriate, the Supreme Court stated that he should have exercised greater caution in his speeches. Consequently, the court permitted the Congress leader to resume his parliamentary duties during the ongoing session.
The Supreme Court noted that the trial judge had imposed the maximum sentence of two years in jail, and emphasized that even a one-day reduction in the sentence would have prevented Rahul Gandhi's disqualification as an MP.
The top court also highlighted that the trial judge had not provided any justification for imposing the maximum penalty, thus concluding that the order of conviction should be stayed until a final decision is reached.
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