India’s top court suspends opposition leader Rahul Gandhi's conviction

India’s top court suspends opposition leader Rahul Gandhi's conviction

Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from parliament after a court in western Gujarat state sentenced him to 2 years in prison

By Shuriah Niazi

NEW DELHI (AA) – India’s Supreme Court on Friday stayed the conviction of opposition leader Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case, paving the way to his return to parliament and contesting national elections next year.

Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison and disqualified in March in a case by a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Purnesh Modi had objected to the Congress leader’s remarks in the southern state of Karnataka ahead of the 2019 elections, which were deemed insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other people surnamed Modi.

Lower courts and the high court in Gujarat, also ruled by the BJP, had rejected appeals to suspend the sentence.

Supreme Court judge Justice B.R. Gavai said the trial court had not given any reasons for handing down the maximum sentence of two years, which also led to his disqualification from parliament.

Gandhi, 53, whose jail term was put on hold and was granted bail, is a scion of a dynasty that has given India three prime ministers.

In a tweet, he said: "Come what may, my duty remains the same. Protect the idea of India."

The Congress party described it as a "victory of love over hate."

"Despite the relentless efforts of the Bharatiya Janata Party's machinery, Rahul Gandhi has refused to bend, break or bow, choosing instead to place his faith in the judicial process," said Jairam Ramesh, the party's general secretary in charge of communications.

Congress president, Mallikarjun Kharge, welcomed the "relief," saying "Truth Alone Triumphs!"

"Justice has been delivered. Democracy has won. The Constitution has been upheld," he added.

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