The Gujarat High Court today began hearing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's plea challenging the order of the Surat sessions court declining a stay to his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his "Modi surname" remark.

Justice Hemant Prachchhak of the High Court took up the criminal revision application filed by Gandhi challenging the April 20 order of the sessions court. If the High Court allows his plea, it could pave the way for Gandhi's reinstatement as a Member of Parliament.

On Wednesday, High Court judge Justice Gita Gopi recused herself from hearing the case after it was brought before her for an urgent hearing. The matter was then assigned to the court of Justice Prachchhak.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi is arguing in the High Court on behalf of Gandhi.

A metropolitan magistrate's court in Surat on March 23 sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation) in a 2019 case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Gujarat MLA Purnesh Modi.

Following the verdict, Gandhi, elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, was disqualified as a an MP under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

Gandhi, 52, challenged the order in the Surat sessions court along with an application seeking a stay to the conviction. While granting him bail, the court on April 20 refused to stay the conviction.

Purnesh Modi filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi over his 'How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?' remark made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.

The hearing can be watched live here.

With PTI Inputs