The Gujarat High Court today dismissed the plea filed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi challenging the order of the Surat Sessions Court declining a stay to his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his "Modi surname" remark.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Hemant M. Prachchhak while dictating the operative portion of the order said that stay of conviction is not a rule but an exception to be resorted to in rare cases. The Court noted that as many as 10 criminal cases are pending against Rahul Gandhi. The Court said that the need of the hour is to have purity of politics. The noted that other complaints have been filed against the present accused after the present complaint. The Court referred to the complaint against Gandhi for his remarks against Veer Savarkar, filed by the relatives of Veer Savarkar. Refusal of conviction will not result in injustice to the applicant, the Court said. The impugned order is just, proper and legal and does not call for interference. The criminal appeal is to be decided as expeditiously by the Appellate Court, the Court directed.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi had appeared on behalf of the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The hearing in the matter had begun on April 29, 2023, and the order was reserved on May 2.

Purnesh Modi had 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.

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 an MP under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

Later, Rahul Gandhi challenged the order in the Surat Sessions Court along with an application seeking a stay to the conviction. Dismissing the plea, the Session Court had observed "It is not disputed fact that the Appellant was the Member of Parliament and President of the second largest political party and looking to such stature of Appellant he should have been more careful with his words, which would have large impact on the mind of people. Any defamatory words coming from the mouth of Appellant are sufficient enough to cause mental agony to aggrieved person. In this case, by uttering defamatory words viz. comparing persons having surname 'Modi' with thieves would definitely have caused mental agony and harm the reputation of complainant, who is socially active and dealing in public."

Cause Title: Rahul Gandhi v. Purnesh Ishwerbhai Modi [R/CR.RA/521/2023]