Section 8(3) of the Representation of peoples Act warrants that the moment a member of parliament is convicted of any offence and sentenced for at least two years or more, they attract disqualification. Rahul Gandhi has got exactly 2-years of punishment in the defamation case. This is why Rahul Gandhi is disqualified as MP after his conviction. Will he also be disqualified for further 6 years from contesting elections?
What is in news?
On 23 March 2023, Rahul Gandhi was convicted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate H.H. Varma Court, in Surat, India for criminal defamation, and sentenced to two years in prison. This comes after a complaint filed by Purnesh Modi in 2019, a BJP lawmaker, who said Gandhi’s comments had defamed the entire Modi community.
What did Rahul Gandhi say that led to his conviction?
In April 2019, he made the following remarks:
Accha, ek chhota sa sawaal, in sab ke naam, in sab choron ke nam, Modi Modi Modi kaise hai? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. Aur abhi thoda dhoondenge to aur bahut saare Modi niklengeRahul Gandhi in 2019 at Kolar, Karnataka [The video of the remarks is available at 13’18’‘]
English Translation– “I have a question. Why do all of them — all of these thieves — have Modi Modi Modi in their names? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi. And if we search a bit more, many more such Modis will come out.”
Crime for which he is convicted and Punishment- Criminal Defamation
In simple words, defamation is nothing but undermining another’s reputation with the intention to harm his reputation.
Section 499 says, “Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.”
Section 500 says, “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”
This shows that Rahul Gandhi has been given the maximum punishment that can be given in a defamation Case.
Read- What are the defences one can take in a defamation case- Click here
How did Rahul Gandhi get a sudden bail in this Case to appeal?
Many of us are wondering how “Rahul Gandhi” managed to get bail so quickly after his conviction. The answer lies in the provision of Crpc, 1973. Section 389(3) of Crpc lays down that if the accused satisfies the court which ordered his conviction that he wants to prefer appeal then in such cases
- If such an accused person being on bail is sentenced for a term not exceeding three years or
- If such an accused person being on bail is convicted of a bailable offence
Then in such cases, the trial court can order that the accused should be released on bail and the term of such sentence will also be suspended till the time appeal is made in the appellate court by the accused person.
Why Rahul Gandhi is disqualified as a Member of the Lok Sabha(MP) after his conviction?
Section 8(3) of the Representation of peoples Act warrants that the moment a member of parliament is convicted of any offence and sentenced for at least two years or more, they attract disqualification. Rahul Gandhi has got exactly 2-years of punishment in the defamation case. This is why Rahul Gandhi is disqualified as MP after his conviction.
Further Disqualification for 6 years after the release
Section 8(3) mandates that the member shall be disqualified from the date of conviction. The disqualification will continue for a further period of six years since the member’s release.
Interestingly, In 2013 in Lily Thomas vs Union of India, the Supreme Court held that once convicted a member will be disqualified even if he presents an appeal before the higher court. This protection was provided in Section 8(4) of the RPA Act, which was held unconstitutional by the Court.
This means that the mere filing of an appeal will not protect Rahul Gandhi from disqualification. Rather, he will have to get a stay on conviction or acquittal from the higher court to suspend his disqualification.
If he does not get an acquittal or stay, he won’t be able to contest the election. He will also be barred from contesting the election for the next 6 years after his release.