Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Indian opposition, will appeal his defamation conviction on Monday, according to his solicitor. He is attempting to overturn the decision that led to his expulsion from the parliament a year before the next general election.
In a case launched by a state member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Gandhi, 52, was found guilty of defamation last month after remarks he made in a 2019 speech were deemed to be offensive to the prime leader and other people with the last name Modi.
Gandhi, the third prime minister of India, was given bail and a two-year prison term was suspended for 30 days so he could appeal to a higher court.
Gandhi’s solicitor, Kirit Panwala, told Reuters in Surat, Gujarat, where the appeal will be heard, “Gandhi will contest the conviction order on several grounds.”
Even though Gandhi’s Congress party is a shell of what it once was and the BJP appears poised to dominate the next general election, scheduled for the middle of next year, Gandhi remains at the centre of opposition politics and the primary target of Modi’s BJP.
Following recent investigations and legal issues for some opposition lawmakers, the administration is alleged to have used strong-arm tactics, according to opposition politicians, as evidenced by his trial and his expulsion from parliament.
Leaders of the BJP dispute that, claiming that Gandhi’s case demonstrates the Congress party’s haughtiness and willingness to inflict harm on segments of society in order to settle political scores with the prime minister.
Gandhi’s conviction was based on a remark he made during the 2014 general election campaign, during which Modi easily won re-election. Gandhi was referring to two fugitive businessmen with the last name Modi when he remarked, “How come all thieves have the name, Modi?”
The court determined that he had used that name to malign everyone, but according to Gandhi’s solicitor, when discussing allegations of high-level corruption, Gandhi was referring to Modi and the two businessmen.
The 2019 address, according to Panwala, “was not intended to disparage the millions of people with the surname Modi.”
He said that the appeal will also draw attention to what he called the trial’s procedural mistakes.