Plea in SC seeks quashing of notification restoring Rahul Gandhi’s membership as Lok Sabha MP

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the August 7 notification which restored the Lok Sabha membership of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi following the apex court order staying his conviction in a 2019 defamation case over his Modi surname remark.

The top court had on August 4 stayed his conviction in the defamation case. Gandhi represents Wayanad in the lower House of Parliament.

The Congress leader was disqualified as an MP on March 24 after a Gujarat court convicted and sentenced him to two-year imprisonment for criminal defamation for comments he made about the Modi surname.

The Gujarat High Court had later dismissed his petition for a stay on conviction, observing that “purity in politics” is the need of the hour.

The petition, which was filed in the apex court on Tuesday by Lucknow-based advocate Ashok Pandey, said it is challenging the August 7 notification issued by the Lok Sabha restoring Gandhi’s membership.

It claimed that as per provisions contained in Article 102 read with section 8 (3) of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951 and the law laid down by a constitution bench of the apex court in B R Kapoor vs State of Tamil Nadu and another, “the disqualification based on conviction and sentence will continue to operate till it is set aside in appeal.”

While Article 102 of the Constitution deals with disqualification of a member of either House of Parliament, section 8 (3) of the RP Act says a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.

The petition has arrayed the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Union of India, the Election Commission of India and Rahul Gandhi as respondents.

It has also sought a direction to the Election Commission to notify the vacancy of the seat being held by him and holding fresh election there.

The petition claimed Gandhi lost his membership of Lok Sabha when he was convicted for defamation and was awarded two years sentence and “as such the Speaker was not right is restoring back his lost membership.”

“In view of order of the Supreme Court staying the conviction of Rahul Gandhi, the petitioner also pray to constitution bench of this court to kindly decide the issue as to whether the conviction of an accused can be stayed by the court of appeal or any court and whether on the basis of stay of conviction, a person who has suffered disqualification by operation of law, will become qualified to be chosen as or for being, a member of Parliament/ State legislature,” it said.

The plea urged the apex court to decide whether the notification regarding loss of membership of a convicted legislator will be notified by the chairman or speaker of the House concerned or is it the domain of the Election Commission.

“Rahul Gandhi is disqualified from being chosen as or from being a member of Parliament and state legislature till his conviction is not set aside by the court of appeal and so, to restore his membership and to permit him to continue to work as Member of Parliament is in clear violation of Article 102 read with section 8 (3) of the RP Act, 1951,” it claimed.

The top court passed the August 4 order while hearing a petition by Gandhi challenging the Gujarat High Court verdict which had dismissed his plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the defamation case filed by Purnesh Modi over his “Modi surname” remark.

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The apex court, while granting Gandhi the relief, had said no reason was given by the trial court judge while convicting him except that he was admonished by the top court in a contempt case.

Purnesh Modi had filed the criminal defamation case in 2019 against Gandhi over his “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” comment made at an election rally in Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.

A metropolitan magistrate’s court in Surat had on March 23 sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation).

Following the verdict, Gandhi was disqualified as an MP under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

The top court had earlier closed the contempt proceedings against Gandhi for wrongly attributing to it his “chowkidar chor hai” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the Rafale case, with a warning to be more careful in future, after the senior Congress leader tendered an unconditional apology.

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