UPDATE - India's parliament disqualifies opposition leader Rahul Gandhi

UPDATE - India's parliament disqualifies opposition leader Rahul Gandhi

Disqualification comes a day after local court in Gujarat state convicts Gandhi in a defamation case over his 2019 remarks about thieves with surname Modi

UPDATES WITH POLITICAL REACTIONS, LEGAL EXPERT QUOTES, CHANGE IN DECK, INTRO

By Anadolu Agency staff

ANKARA (AA) - The Indian parliament disqualified Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of India's main opposition Indian National Congress party, on Friday, a day after a local court in the western Indian state of Gujarat convicted him in a defamation case filed in 2019.

​​​​​​​A notification issued by the Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, said Gandhi "stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction..."
On Thursday, Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison by Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma in Surat, Gujarat, Modi's home state, but was released on bail for 30 days so that he could appeal the verdict in a higher court.

Purnesh Modi, a state legislator from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), filed the complaint in the case for remarks he made during a rally in the southern state of Karnataka ahead of the 2019 general elections, in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi.

Gandhi tweeted on Friday after his disqualification that he is "fighting for the voice of India" and that "I am ready to pay any cost."

Reacting to the disqualification, Congress party President Mallikarjun Kharge said Gandhi's membership in parliament has been canceled "only for speaking the truth and silencing those fighting for the rights of the people according to the principles of democracy."

Another Congress party leader Jairam Ramesh said the party will "fight this battle both legally and politically."

"We will not be intimidated or silenced. Instead of a JPC into the PM-linked Adani MahaMegaScam, @RahulGandhi stands disqualified," he stated on Twitter.

The opposition party has called for a joint parliamentary committee to investigate the allegations against the Adani Group, which has been accused of business malpractice by a US-based short seller.

Several opposition leaders from other parties have also thrown their weight behind Gandhi.

Mamata Banerjee, another opposition leader and head of the regional All India Trinamool Congress party said in "PM Modi’s New India, Opposition leaders have become the prime target of BJP!"

"While BJP leaders with criminal antecedents are inducted into the cabinet, Opposition leaders are disqualified for their speeches," she wrote on Twitter, adding that "today, we have witnessed a new low for our constitutional democracy."

Akhilesh Yadav, national president of the Samajwadi Party, said the disqualification was carried out to divert the attention from the real issues like "inflation and unemployment."

Gandhi is a scion of India's most famous political dynasty, having been the son, grandson, and great-grandson of former prime ministers.
However, in the last two general elections, his party was crushed by the Modi-led BJP.

Earlier this year, he traveled from the south to the north of the country in a nationwide march to challenge Modi, who is seeking a third consecutive term next year.

Legal experts say Gandhi can now appeal to higher courts to have the conviction overturned.

"He has to now approach higher courts to get the conviction order stayed," a senior lawyer Diljeet Titus told Anadolu.

Asked if Gandhi's parliamentary seat could be restored, he replied, "it depends on the terms of the order staying the conviction order.”

Meanwhile, members of the Congress party protested in various parts of the country on Friday in support of their leader.

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