Rahul Gandhi reinstated as Indian MP after defamation conviction suspended

Opposition leader had been removed from parliament over case

Rahul Gandhi arrives at the Congress party headquarters after being suspended from parliament earlier this year. AFP
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India's parliament on Monday reinstated as an MP opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, who had been suspended over a defamation conviction.

Mr Gandhi's suspension “has ceased to operate subject to further judicial pronouncements,” said Utpal Kumar Singh, secretary general of the Lok Sabha, parliament's lower house.

The statement follows a ruling on Friday from the Supreme Court suspending the conviction, handed down by a Gujarat court in March.

It allows Mr Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress Party, to seek readmission to the Lok Sabha, of which he has been a member for nearly two decades.

"With the restoration of Mr Gandhi's parliament membership, the opposition will "show a mirror to the government" on the issues like the ethnic conflict in Manipur, communal violence and the dwindling economy, Congress Party spokesperson Anshul Avijit said.

"We knew that the charges against Mr. Gandhi was unsubstantiated, they were baseless and we are very glad that in a way, that judgment has been revoked," he told The National.

The court ruling also paves the way for Mr Gandhi to stand in next year's general election.

He was suspended from parliament after his conviction over comments made about Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an election speech in 2019.

A politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party brought a defamation case against him over the comments made during a Kerala rally.

The opposition leader linked Mr Modi to high-profile criminals and asked why they shared the same surname.

He had appealed to the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court rejected a plea to stay his conviction.

It said there was no reason for the judge to sentence him to the maximum of two years in prison.

Earlier this year, Mr Gandhi embarked on 150-day march called Bharat Jodo Yatra – the country's longest in more than a century, during which he covered 3,500km and accused Mr Modi of dividing the country.

His lawyer said the crime for which he had been convicted was not “serious” and an eight-year ban on him standing for elections was “virtually semi-permanent in politics”.

During a trip to the US in May, he accused Mr Modi's government of threatening the opposition and using government agencies to suppress dissent.

With agency reports

Updated: October 31, 2023, 11:43 AM