Congress leader Rahul Gandhi along with sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra arrives at sessions court in Surat.
Surat: The hearing in the case challenging Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in the 2019 defamation case will next be held on May 3 at the Surat District and Sessions Court, which on Monday extended his bail till April 13.
Mr Gandhi, accompanied by sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and several other Congress leaders including three Chief Ministers, approached Surat’s sessions court with an appeal to set aside his conviction over his “Modi surname” comment seen to be an insult to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The former Congress president need not appear in court for the next hearing.
If Mr Gandhi’s conviction is not reversed, his disqualification as an MP will stand and he will be barred from contesting elections for eight years. He has already started packing after agreeing to vacate his government bungalow.
The court had earlier given 30 days to the Congress leader to appeal against its order. After the Surat court’s verdict, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as MP from Lok Sabha.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and senior leaders including chief ministers of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh reached Surat from their respective states had accompanied Gandhi to the Gujarat court. Priyanka was seen with Rahul Gandhi aboard an IndiGo flight from Delhi.
The former MP from Wayanad was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate H H Varma on March 23 in a defamation case over his ‘Modi surname’ remark in 2019 in Karnataka.
The defamation case was filed against Gandhi by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi for saying “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?”
The Bharatiya Janata Party came down heavily on Rahul Gandhi for accompanying his family and party leaders to file an appeal in the appellate court in Surat against his conviction by a magistrate court in the 2019 criminal defamation case.
BJP spokesperson held a press conference earlier today to lash out at Rahul Gandhi and alleged that the Congress leader is going with his family and some chief ministers “with pomp and show” to “repeat and add to the insult” of the OBC community.
“Rahul Gandhi, his family members, CMs Ashok Gehlot & Bhupesh Baghel are going to Surat & will be creating mayhem in the name of appealing (against the two-year sentence) verdict. What’s the need for this ruckus?” Patra said.
Further slamming Rahul Gandhi over his “arrogance”, the BJP leader alleged that he was not ready to apologise to the lower court for his remark.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju alleged that the Congress party is doing drama to “threaten the judiciary”. “They (Congress) are doing a drama to threaten the judiciary. I condemn it. If a court has convicted somebody, then the drama is basically about pressuring. Congress party considers a family above the country…” told reporters outside Parliament today.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur also hit out at the Congress. “India won’t tolerate the insult of backwards…Earlier, PV Narasimha Rao, P Chidambaram, DK Shivakumar went to jail too, how many Congress people went with them? Is one family bigger than the country?,” Thakur asked.
However, the Congress leaders said that they are accompanying Rahul Gandhi to show solidarity with him.
Chhattisgarh chief minister and Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel questioned the BJP’s logic. “I am going with my leader (Rahul Gandhi), how can this be pressure on the judiciary? They (BJP) are creating a ruckus in West Bengal and Bihar. Till now no appeal has come from PM Modi and Amit Shah…,” Baghel told reporters.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, “We will not debate the court’s decision but will fight against injustice. It is not a show of strength. He is our leader. Everyone goes to stand by a leader. The family members go along when there is even a normal case. This is a party and we are fighting for the country. We will reach there. It is the decision of the whole party, he has not called us.”
Himachal chief minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who is also accompanying Rahul rubbished the allegation of “drama” levelled by the BJP.
“No one can pressurise judiciary. We are going to Surat. Congress is the main opposition party and Rahul Gandhi is big leader of our party. This is not a political drama. We stand by him…,” Sukhu said.