The Congress party has strongly criticized the Centre’s decision to disqualify Rahul Gandhi as a Lok Sabha member, calling it an “attack on democracy.” The party claimed that the move was part of a “pattern” to prevent him from speaking out against the government and to divert attention from real issues. However, the Congress party was confident that the higher court will revoke the disqualification.
Gandhi, 52, a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, was disqualified by the Parliament as a member of the Lower House on Friday, following his conviction by the Surat court in a defamation case for a 2019 speech in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi. He has been sentenced to two years in prison a defamation case. However, the court granted him bail immediately and suspended the sentence for a month.
A parliament notice said that Mr. Gandhi “stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha”, alluding to the lower house of parliament.
Mr Gandhi’s party had termed the verdict “erroneous and unsustainable” and pledged to fight the disqualification “both legally and politically”.
During a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi and senior leader Jairam Ramesh criticized the government’s decision.
“The issue at hand is political, rather than legal, as it highlights the systematic dismantling of democratic institutions by the ruling party. It is an attack on democracy itself. While defamation is an exception to free speech, in recent years, we have seen repeated assaults on freedom of speech, and more importantly, freedom after speech. We all know that Rahul Gandhi has fearlessly spoken out both inside and outside of Parliament, and he is paying a price for it,” said Singhvi.
Singhvi also accused the government of trying to silence Gandhi’s voice by resorting to new methods. “This government is afraid because he speaks with facts and figures on demonetization, the GST, and the supposed clean chit to China. He is consistently aggressive and open in his questioning. Therefore, the government is finding new ways to silence him,” said Ramesh.
Singhvi responded to the criticism from the BJP following Gandhi’s recent remarks on Indian democracy in the UK, stating that the Congress leader is entitled to speak freely on the grounds of real nationalism. “Rahul Gandhi travels abroad, where he is entitled to speak freely, and when he returns, his speeches become the basis of action against him in Parliament. This is all part of a larger pattern to silence him and divert attention from the pressing issues facing the country today,” said Singhvi.
Singhvi expressed confidence that Gandhi’s conviction would be overturned in a higher court, allowing him to return to Parliament. “We are confident that we will secure a stay on his conviction, which will remove the basis for his disqualification. We have faith in the law and believe that we will emerge victorious in the near future,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years in jail in a criminal defamation case by a court in Surat, Gujarat, on Thursday. He was found guilty under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code for his alleged comment at a rally in Kolar, Karnataka, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, where he said, “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?”.
The court granted Gandhi bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court. As per the Representation of the People Act, a person sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more shall be disqualified “from the date of such conviction,” and remain disqualified for another six years after serving time.