Gandhi dynasty and the courts

A history of tumultuous relations

Yash Pal Ralhan, Jaladhar
The rejection of Rahul Gandhi’s application for a stay on his conviction by a court in Gujarat’s Surat city has once again brought to the fore the controversy surrounding his “Modi surname” remark. Gandhi had made the remark during an election rally in Kolar, Karnataka, in April 2019, in which he had said, “How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” The remark had led to a criminal defamation case against Gandhi, and a lower court had sentenced him to two years in jail. Gandhi had approached the sessions court for appeal, but the court rejected his application for a relief pending his appeal. This decision could have serious implications for the Congress Party and its future electoral prospects.
History seems to be repeating itself, as Gandhi’s grandmother Indira Gandhi had lost her election appeal in the Allahabad High Court, leading to the imposition of the Emergency in India. However, there are some key differences between the two situations. For one, Rahul Gandhi is now in the opposition, and there is little unity among opposition parties, as evident from the states of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab. Moreover, the judge in Gandhi’s case had asked him if he wanted to make a statement in his defense, but his response was a few philosophical words that had no link with the case. This was similar to the Sanjay Dutt case, in which the judge had told Dutt that the court demands only legal arguments, not a character certificate. In his appeal, Gandhi’s lawyer had argued that the judge had been misled and had been too harsh in his judgment. However, the sessions court dismissed the appeal, leaving Gandhi with no option but to approach the Gujarat High Court. This has raised questions about the Congress Party’s ability to defend itself in court, despite having a battery of top lawyers. The immediate impact of the Surat court’s decision is likely to be seen in the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections, in which the Congress Party will have to make new political plans. However, the fallout from the “Modi surname” remark could have broader implications for the party’s future electoral prospects. The Congress Party’s reaction to the judgment has been mixed, with some party leaders expressing disappointment and others suggesting that they had expected the verdict. However, the party should be careful not to undermine the independence of the judiciary by making such remarks. The party’s failure to defend itself in court raises questions about its internal politics and the role of the Gandhi family in the party’s future. The political situation in Maharashtra is also likely to have a direct impact on the Congress Party, as Supriya Sule, daughter of Sharad Pawar, has hinted at some political developments in the state and in Delhi. The Congress Party will have to navigate these developments carefully to avoid further damage to its reputation. The Rahul Gandhi case should serve as a wake-up call for the Congress Party to take a hard look at its internal politics and its ability to defend itself in court. The party should avoid making controversial remarks that could undermine the judiciary’s independence and should focus on building a strong electoral base. The fallout from the “Modi surname” remark could have far-reaching implications for the party’s future, and it is up to the party’s leadership to take the necessary steps to prevent further damage.

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