SURAT: On March 23, 2023, the Surat District Court in Gujarat held Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi guilty in a criminal defamation case filed against him by a local BJP leader. The case pertained to Gandhi’s alleged “Modi surname” remark made during a public rally in the state ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections.
According to the ANI news agency, Surat District Court holds Congress MP Rahul Gandhi guilty in the criminal defamation case filed against him over his alleged ‘Modi surname’ remark.
Gujarat | Surat District Court holds Congress MP Rahul Gandhi guilty in the criminal defamation case filed against him over his alleged 'Modi surname' remark. pic.twitter.com/VXdrvFAjyK— ANI (@ANI) March 23, 2023
The court found Gandhi guilty of defaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hails from Gujarat and belongs to the BJP. The court observed that Gandhi’s remark had hurt the sentiments of the people of the state and that it was made with the intention of maligning the image of the Prime Minister.
The BJP leader who had filed the case against Gandhi had argued that the Congress MP had insulted the people of Gujarat by questioning the Prime Minister’s surname. The leader had alleged that Gandhi’s comment was a deliberate attempt to create caste-based divisions and that it had caused harm to the social fabric of the state.
Gandhi, who was present in court, reportedly maintained that he had not intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments and that his remark had been taken out of context. He also argued that the BJP had been trying to silence him and other opposition leaders by filing such cases.
The court, however, rejected Gandhi’s defense and held him guilty of criminal defamation. The sentencing in the case is expected to take place at a later date.
The verdict is likely to have political ramifications in Gujarat, where the BJP has been in power for several years. The Congress, which has been struggling to make a comeback in the state, is likely to face further challenges in the wake of Gandhi’s conviction.
The case also highlights the issue of freedom of speech and expression in India, where defamation laws are often used to stifle dissent and criticism. Critics argue that such laws are often misused by powerful individuals and groups to silence their opponents, and that they have a chilling effect on free speech.