Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi gets 2 years’ jail for defamation

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was given bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days. PHOTO: REUTERS

AHMEDABAD, India - A court in western India found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation on Thursday for a speech he made in 2019 in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi, and sentenced him to two years in prison.

Gandhi was present at the court in Surat, a city in Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

He was given bail and the sentence was suspended for 30 days.

The criminal defamation case was filed against Gandhi by a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after the speech during the 2019 General Election in which he referred to the surname Modi and asked how all thieves had the surname.

“The court has found Rahul Gandhi’s comment to be defamatory. The court found him guilty under IPC Section 499 read with 500. He has been sentenced to two years in jail,” said Mr Ketan Reshamwala, advocate for complainant Purnesh Modi.

Gandhi said in court that he had made the comment to highlight corruption and not against any community.

He is one of the main opposition leaders in the country who will go up against Mr Modi when the Prime Minister seeks his third term in office in 2024.

Gandhi’s once-dominant Congress controls less than 10 per cent of the elected seats in Parliament’s Lower House and has lost badly to the BJP in two successive general elections, most recently in 2019.

Mr Modi remains India’s most popular politician by a substantial margin.

He is widely expected to secure a third victory at the next general election in 2024. REUTERS

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