The verdict, which puts Gandhi’s future as a member of Parliament (MP) in jeopardy, will be fought both “legally and politically”, said Congress leaders…reports Asian Lite News
The Congress said on Thursday that neither Rahul Gandhi nor workers of the party will stop speaking out against the Narendra Modi government despite a judgment by a Surat court that convicted Gandhi for two years in a 2019 defamation case.
The verdict, which puts Gandhi’s future as a member of Parliament (MP) in jeopardy, will be fought both “legally and politically”, Congress leaders said.
The BJP, meanwhile, hailed the verdict against the Wayanad MP, saying that no one should consider themselves above the law.
Soon after the judgment was pronounced, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said, “We will appeal in the higher court against the action taken against Rahulji in Gujarat, but neither will we be afraid nor will we back down. We will continue to expose the misdeeds of this government at any cost.”
Claiming that the BJP is trying to keep Gandhi out of Parliament for “speaking the truth”, Kharge said, “Today the situation is such that Rahul Gandhi appears in his dreams as well..If the Modi government continues to sit with folded hands and keep handing over the country’s wealth to its friends, then neither Rahul Gandhi will remain silent nor Congress workers will remain silent. We will not give freedom to a few friends to loot public property.”
The grand old party found support in its stand not just from its usual allies — Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s MK Stalin spoke to Gandhi, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party described it as an attempt to “suppress the voice” of Opposition leaders, and Tejashwi Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal said it highlight how all Opposition parties must come together without delay — but also surprisingly from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
“There is a conspiracy to eliminate non-BJP leaders and parties by prosecuting them. We have differences with the Congress, but it is not right to implicate Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case like this. It is the job of the public and the Opposition to ask questions. We respect the court but disagree with the decision,” Delhi’s chief minister and AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal said.
Speaking about the verdict, Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi argued that, in such defamation cases, “complainants should be those who must be able to demonstrate, how they personally, “A, B or C, have been defamed”. “Here, the admitted position is that no one which is the subject matter of the statement, which is found to be offending has filed a criminal complaint. The first condition, precedent of the law of defamation appears to have been patently not fulfilled and yet led to a conviction,” he added.
Announcing that the party will approach the sessions court in the next few days, Singhvi said that the context of Gandhi’s 2019 speech — in which he was quoted as asking why all criminals have the surname Modi; an apparent jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi in light of the Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi cases — shows there was no “malicious intent”.
“A leader of the political party of India with a pan India footprint was speaking about unemployment, price rise, in the course of which there is a sentence, which has been found to be offending, ” Singhvi said.
The BJP, meanwhile, slammed the Congress for criticising the verdict, and Gandhi for flouting the law.
Senior party leader and former minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the law of India is that if an individual or an organisation has been defamed by defamatory comments or abuses, they have the right to seek redress. “But Congress has an objection to it… They want complete freedom for Rahul Gandhi to utter abuses,” Prasad said.
Prasad also hit out at the Congress for allegedly disrespecting the legal process. “Despite being deputy Prime Minister, (LK) Advaniji went to court; BJP leaders faced cases. The government was of the NDA but cases against BJP leaders weren’t withdrawn,” Prasad said.
Speaking outside Parliament, Union minister Piyush Goyal said that Rahul Gandhi had made it a habit to “defy and disrespects every democratic institution, whether it is Parliament or the judiciary”.
“He should come out of this dynastic mindset and realise that no individual is bigger than the country, bigger than the people of India, bigger than the Constitution of India and nobody should consider himself above the law,” Goyal said.
“Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi has never respected high constitutional offices, including the office of his own PM Dr Manmohan Singh. You remember the way he attacked the then UPA government and tore a lawful decision taken by the whole Cabinet headed by the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh,” he said.