Legal luminary and former Union law minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday said while Congress's Rahul Gandhi stands automatically disqualified as an MP with his two-year jail sentence, the sentence itself is "bizarre". Mr Gandhi was convicted by a court in Gujarat over his remark on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has got bail, and has been given 30 days' time to file an appeal.
Through the day there has been speculation on whether Mr Gandhi's conviction would bar him from the Lok Sabha.
Mr Sibal, a former member of the Congress and one of the most prominent advocates in the country, was emphatic that Mr Gandhi stands disqualified under the law.
"If it (the court) only suspends the sentence that's not enough. There has to be a suspension or stay of conviction. He (Rahul Gandhi) can stay on as a member of parliament only if there is a stay on the conviction," Mr Sibal told NDTV.
The law states that if one is convicted in any offence for two years then the seat will be vacant, he explained. "The law requires it and naturally the Speaker will move in accordance with the law," he added.
In the Lily Thomas versus Union of India case in 2013, the Supreme Court had ruled that "any MP, MLA or MLC who is convicted of a crime and given a minimum of 2 years' jail loses membership of the House with immediate effect".
The court had scrapped the Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal against their conviction, calling it "unconstitutional".
But Mr Sibal also called the Surat court's verdict "bizarre".
"For a statement made in respect of certain individuals, for him to be convicted for two years -- it is totally bizarre," said the senior leader, who had quit the Congress in May last year amid much bitterness and started his new platform "Insaaf ki Sipahi (platform for justice)".
Asked about the BJP stance that Mr Gandhi's comment was against a caste and community, he shot back, "What community? It was against an individual. They may say anything, but I'm telling you it was against an individual".
In its judgment, the Surat court had said although Mr Gandhi was "warned and advised by the Supreme Court", there is no evidence of any change in his conduct.
"The accused is an MP who addresses the people in the capacity of an MP and impacts a large part of the society and therefore the effects of this crime is much comprehensive in this case. Giving him a reduced sentence would set a bad precedent and send a negative message in society. Keeping that mind the accused is being given the sentence of 2 years of imprisonment," the court had said.
Targetting PM Modi over his last name – which he shares with fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi -- Rahul Gandhi had said, "How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?" Shortly after, a police case was filed against him by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.
The Congress has said Mr Gandhi will contest the verdict. The party has also questioned how the court can give such harsh punishment "after a 20-minute hearing".