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Indian opposition leader handed jail sentence
Pic: Shutterstock

23 Mar 2023 / global news Print

Indian opposition leader handed jail sentence

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi (pictured) has been sentenced to two years in prison in a criminal defamation case, according to a BBC report.

Gandhi was convicted by the court in Gujarat state for comments he made in 2019 about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname during an election rally.

The BBC report says that he will not go to jail immediately – he has been given bail for 30 days and can file an appeal against his conviction.

The Congress party MP was present in court for sentencing, which comes a year before general elections are due in India.


Speaking at an election rally in Karnataka state in April 2019, ahead of the last general election, Gandhi had said: "Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi."

Nirav Modi is a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon, while Lalit Modi is a former chief of the Indian Premier League who has been banned for life by the country's cricket board.

The case was filed on the basis of a complaint by Purnesh Modi, a politician from India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party, who said that Gandhi's comments had defamed the entire Modi community.

The order has puzzled some legal experts, however, with legal scholar Gautam Bhatia tweeting that "references to a generic class of persons" – surnames in this case – were not "actionable unless an individual can show a direct reference to themselves".


The Congress party tweeted that Gandhi would file an appeal and "we will fight and win".

His lawyer, Kirit Panwala, told BBC Gujarati that Gandhi had told the judge after the order that he had made the speech "in favour of democracy".

India's criminal defamation law is a British-era legislation, under which there can be a maximum prison sentence of two years, or a fine, or both.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland