Congress leader Rahul Gandhi paid a brief visit to the Parliament this morning, hours before he was disqualified as a Member of the Lok Sabha following his conviction and two-year jail sentence in a defamation case. He left after the Lok Sabha was adjourned till noon amid protests.
Mr Gandhi, who represented Kerala's Wayanad constituency, was convicted yesterday and sentenced to two years in jail for his alleged remarks over the 'Modi' surname. A Gujarat court granted him bail for 30 day to appeal the decision.
If a Member of Parliament is convicted of any offence and is sentenced for at least two years, he attracts disqualification, according to Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Mr Gandhi "automatically" stands disqualified as a MP due to his conviction and the two-year sentencing, said some legal experts, while others claimed he could avoid suspension if he manages to get the conviction overturned.
Noted lawyer and BJP MP Mahesh Jethmalani told NDTV that Mr Gandhi stood disqualified under the law, but the decision has to be communicated to the Speaker.
Former law minister Kapil Sibal, who was earlier with the Congress, too said Mr Gandhi stands automatically disqualified as an MP and getting only the jail sentence suspended is not enough. Mr Gandhi could have continued as an MP only if his conviction was stayed, according to him.
Mr Gandhi plans to challenge the local court's verdict in a sessions court, according to the Congress leader's team. He will move the Supreme Court if his appeal for a freeze on the order is not accepted there.
The defamation case pertains to Mr Gandhi's alleged "how come all thieves have Modi as the common surname" remark at a pre-election rally in Karnataka's Kolar. A former Gujarat minister had filed a complaint alleging he had defamed the entire Modi community.
A court in Surat yesterday convicted him in the case and sentenced him to two years in jail, while also providing a 30-day window to appeal the verdict.
"My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, non-violence the means to get it," tweeted the Wayanad MP quoting Mahatma Gandhi, in his first comment after the verdict.