Surat: A Surat court on Thursday rejected Rahul Gandhi's plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2019 criminal defamation case on the 'Modi surname' remark.
Former Wayanad MP will now have to appeal in Gujarat High Court or Supreme Court against the Surat court's order. Additional sessions judge Robin P Mogera cited Gandhi's stature as an MP and former chief of the country's second-largest political party and said he should have been more careful. He cited prima facie evidence and observations of the trial court and said it transpires that Gandhi made certain derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi apart from comparing people with the same surname with thieves.
Mogera said the surname of the complainant in the case, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Purnesh Modi, is also Modi. "...the complainant is [also an] ex-minister and involved in public life and such defamatory remarks would have certainly harmed his reputation and caused him pain and agony in society," he said.
The judge said, "In this case, by uttering defamatory words viz comparing persons having [the] surname 'Modi' with thieves would definitely have caused mental agony and harm the reputation of [the] complainant, who is socially active and dealing in public." He further added, "When the defamatory matter affects each and every member of an ascertainable class or group each of them or all of them could set the law in motion."
He added, "After attributing defamatory statements against the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the accused did not stop there and further commented 'Why do all thieves have the common surname of 'Modi'? It is submitted that the defamatory statements were made by the accused and he had the knowledge that it would harm the reputation of 'Modi' surname holders and such statements were made only with a view to earning a political gain."
Mogera cited the disqualification criteria under the Representation of the People Act and added that removal or disqualification as MP could not be termed irreversible or irreparable loss or damage to Gandhi.