His appeal will soon enough be in the high court and he can go on to the top court if indeed his appeal in the case
The Surat sessions court rejecting Rahul Gandhi’s appeal to suspend his conviction in the criminal defamation case is not the end of the road for the Congress leader. His appeal will soon enough be in the high court and he can go on to the top court if indeed his appeal in the case regarding a comment made in the hustings ahead of the 2019 general elections does not get resolved in his favour in Gujarat.
The grounds on which the Surat court rejected his appeal seemed to be based on a generalised view that if relief is given by using the power to suspend or stay the conviction, the justice system will not be served, as it “would have a serious impact on the public perception of the justice delivery systems and such order will shake public confidence in judiciary”.
The crux of the matter is whether imprisonment is just punishment for the “crime” of defamation, which in many jurisdictions in the free world is dealt with by fining the defamer. It is easy to see why the ruling to punish Rahul Gandhi with a two-year jail term, thereby stripping him of his eligibility to hold the elective post of Member of Parliament, has assumed tectonic political overtones and repercussions, besides the proximity to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls while taking into consideration the speed of the judicial system in the country.
The judge holding an MP and member of India’s second largest political party in terms of number of MPs in the current Parliament to higher accountability is not to be brushed aside. And yet the basic question remains of finding a balance between crime and punishment and the basic principles of law in defamation suits in which a jail term for Rahul is possibly the first pronounced in India after Independence.
Rahul is by no means the only politician who uses defamatory language in polemics though his tendency to bank on snide remarks seems more suited to social media venting and leaves him vulnerable to legal action. Beyond the legal issues, what is loaded with interest is how he and his party choose to use a handle that has been given to them. Does he take the route of the wounded martyr to try and boost electoral gains for his party?