The Supreme Court of India has scheduled hearing date for today (July 21) for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's appeal for stay on conviction for criminal defamation.
He is seeking a stay on his conviction in a defamation case related to his "Modi surname" remark. The Gujarat High Court had previously dismissed the stay.
A bench comprising Justices B R Gavai and P K Mishra will handle the matter. On July 18, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi had requested an urgent hearing and brought the case to the attention of a bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud, after which the court agreed to hear Gandhi's plea.
In his appeal, Rahul Gandhi has expressed concerns that if the Gujarat High Court's judgment given on July 7 is not stayed, it could result in a curb on free speech, expression, thought, and statements.
Rahul Gandhi was slapped with a criminal defamation case in 2019 by Purnesh Modi, a former minister in the Gujarat government.
During an election rally in Kolar, Karnataka on April 13, 2019, Gandhi had made a statement referring to fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi, both wanted in India. He remarked on their shared surname, saying "how all thieves have Modi as the common surname".
Gandhi has filed a plea expressing concern that he will suffer irreparable harm if the High Court order is not stayed. He has argued that the consequence of not staying the order will result in injustice, as he is currently disqualified as a Member of Parliament from Wayanad in Kerala and unable to participate in parliamentary proceedings.
As an interim relief, Gandhi has requested an ad-interim ex-parte stay of the Gujarat High Court's July 7 order while this appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.
On March 24, the Congress leader was disqualified as an MP after a Gujarat court convicted and sentenced him to two years in prison for criminal defamation. This conviction was based on comments he made about the Modi surname.
The high court's dismissal of his petition for a stay on conviction on July 7 was a setback for the 53-year-old Gandhi. The court emphasized the importance of "purity in politics" as the need of the hour.
Despite hopes that a stay on Gandhi's conviction could lead to his reinstatement as a Lok Sabha MP, he did not receive any relief from either the sessions court or the Gujarat High Court.
On March 23, a metropolitan magistrate's court in Surat had sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after finding him guilty of criminal defamation under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500.
As a consequence of the verdict, Gandhi was disqualified as an MP under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
Gandhi filed an application in a sessions court in Surat, challenging the order and seeking a stay on his conviction.
The Surat sessions court granted him bail on April 20 but refused to stay the conviction.
As a result, he had decided to approach the high court.
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