Indian court denies Rahul Gandhi's appeal to stay defamation conviction


A court in the Indian state of Gujarat on Thursday rejected Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's petition seeking a stay of conviction in a defamation case, fuelling uncertainty over whether he will be able to contest an election due next year.

Gandhi was convicted last month in a case brought by a state lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after comments he made that were deemed to be insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other people surnamed Modi.

"The Surat district court has not granted a stay on Rahul Gandhi's conviction," Naishadh Desai, a Congress leader and lawyer, told reporters.

"We are going to challenge the decision in Gujarat High Court tomorrow. We have full faith that the judiciary will uphold justice and save the democracy," he said.

While Thursday's ruling was a setback for Gandhi, his jail sentence remained suspended until he exhausts all his legal challenges to the conviction.

Gandhi, 52, lost his parliament seat in March after being convicted and sentenced to two years in jail for comments made during an election campaign rally in 2019.

The law that governs elections in India mandates disqualification of any lawmaker who is "convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years".

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