A sessions court in Gujarat's Surat city on Monday granted bail to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after he filed an appeal against his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his 2019 "Modi surname" remark in which he has been sentenced to two years in jail, a lawyer said.

The court of Additional Sessions Judge R P Mogera said it will hear his plea for suspension of conviction on April 13 after issuing a notice to complainant Purnesh Modi, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA and former Gujarat cabinet minister.

The sessions court asked the respondent (Purnesh Modi) to file his reply by April 10.

"We had filed an application for Rahul Gandhi's bail and suspension of sentence along with his appeal against conviction by a lower court. The (sessions) court heard the matter and granted him bail. The court kept the matter for hearing on the stay of his conviction for April 13," a member of his legal team told reporters.

Rahul Gandhi, who arrived in Surat earlier in the day, will not be required to appear in the court during the hearing of the case, he said.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other party leaders were present in the courtroom when the matter came up for hearing at around 3 pm.

Rahul Gandhi reached the sessions court premises in a luxury bus along with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior leaders. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and several other party leaders were present in Surat.

The case was filed against Rahul Gandhi on a complaint by Purnesh Modi for the 52-year-old Congress leader's remark, "How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?"

The disqualified MP made the comment on "Modi surname" while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019, during campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress leader, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, was convicted on March 23 by the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate H H Varma and sentenced to two years in jail.

The magistrate's court had granted him bail the same day and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court. A day after his conviction and sentence, he was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha.

With PTI Inputs