NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday pleaded before the Supreme Court to stay his conviction in a defamation case pending his appeal, in order to enable him to participate in the ongoing sittings of the Lok Sabha and the sessions thereafter.
"The case of the petitioner is one of excellent chance of success before the appellate court, an exceptional case considering the offence being a trivial offence, and the irreparable harm that accrues to the petitioner, as an elected MP. On the other hand, there is no prejudice caused at all to the respondent (complainant)," he said.
In a rejoinder affidavit, the disqualified MP from Wayanad said defamation is one of the 22 offences under the Indian Penal Code which attracts simple imprisonment. This is itself an exceptional circumstance for stay of the conviction.
He also responded to complainant BJP MLA from Gujarat Purnesh Modi's contention that Modis are an identifiable class of people entitling him to maintain a complaint under Explanation 2 of Section 499 of IPC inasmuch as he is a part of that class.
"Complainant himself has given inconsistent versions in his statements creating reasonable doubts that if at all people with Modi surname can be identified as a separate, identifiable and a finite class," he said.
Gandhi also contended the complainant used "slanderous" terms such as 'arrogant' to describe him, only because he has refused to apologise.
"Using the criminal process and the consequences under Representation of People Act to arm twist the petitioner into apologising for no fault, is gross abuse of the judicial process and ought not to be countenanced by this court," he said.
He also stated that he has always maintained that he is not guilty of offence and that the conviction is unsustainable and "if he had to apologise and compound the offence, he would have done it much earlier".
"The bizarre suggestion, in the reply filed by Purnesh Modi, is that the accused should apologise and express remorse amounts to a suggestion that he should withdraw the appeal and should have no further recourse in the matter," he said.
The Gujarat High Court had on July 7 dismissed Gandhi's plea for stay on the conviction for his remarks made in an election rally in Karnataka's Kolar in 2019.
The court is scheduled to hear his special leave petition on August 4.
On March 23, 2023, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat had held Gandhi guilty for the offence of defamation and awarded him maximum two-year jail term. The conviction has led to disqualification of Gandhi as Member of Parliament.