India lawmaker objects to opposition leader Gandhi’s appeal against defamation conviction

AHMEDABAD (Reuters): An Indian state lawmaker who accused main opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi of defamation has objected to his appeal in a higher court, according to a filing on Tuesday.

Gandhi, 52, lost his parliamentary seat last month after he was found guilty of defamation by a lower court in the western state of Gujarat for a 2019 speech in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi.

Purnesh Modi, the lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said Gandhi insulted the prime minister and other people with that surname through his comment, and that the lower court judgment was just and proper.

“The stay of conviction can be granted only in exceptional circumstances and in the rarest of the rare case. This is not an exceptional case in any way and a clear-cut case of defamation,” Modi’s lawyer Ketan Reshamwala told Reuters.

Two more defamation cases have been filed elsewhere against Gandhi for the same comment and he is due to appear in court in one of them in the eastern city of Patna on April 12.

Gandhi is at the center of opposition politics and the main target of Modi’s BJP even though Gandhi’s Congress party is a shadow of its former self and the BJP looks set to dominate the next general election.