The language used by Rahul Gandhi in his “Modi surname” comment was exceptionally disrespectful, and the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend his conviction was driven not by the merits of the case but by concerns for his constituency, eminent jurist Harish Salve has said.
In a wide-ranging interview with NDTV’s Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pugalia, the former Solicitor General of India said Rahul Gandhi’s comments were not expected of a public figure of his stature.
“Whether Rahul Gandhi should be convicted or not is a different issue. But the highly disrespectful manner of talking… you are making false accusations and then you say I am in public life…Everyone knows, however much he denies it, he dreams of becoming prime minister. Is this his stature to use this sort of language?” Harish Salve questioned.
“Supreme Court judges said what he said was wrong and it is not right to talk like this. But the conviction was stayed because the constituency should not go unrepresented until there is a decision on his appeal (against conviction). That is why it was stayed, not on merits,” Mr Salve asserted.
Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to prison for two years in Gujarat on March 23 for his speech during the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign. BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi had taken the Congress leader to court for saying: “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?”
Rahul Gandhi, the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad in Kerala, was disqualified soon after the conviction. He challenged the order all the way to the Supreme Court, which paused his conviction saying his comments were not in good taste, but his disqualification from parliament would affect his constituents.
“No doubt that the utterances by the petitioner (Rahul Gandhi) were not in good taste. The petitioner ought to have been more careful in making speeches,” the Supreme Court said, enabling the Congress leader’s return to parliament in the ongoing session.
The Supreme Court said the trial judge had pronounced the maximum sentence of two years in jail, and Rahul Gandhi would not have been disqualified as an MP if the sentence was even a day less. “No reason had been given by the trial judge for imposing maximum penalty, the order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication,” the top court said.