Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, March 24: In a huge setback for the Congress party, its former president Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified from the Lok Sabha because of his conviction in a 2019 criminal defamation case. The Lok Sabha Secretariat also declared his constituency vacant.

The Election Commission can now announce a special election for the seat. Congress has called it a ‘conspiracy’ to silence the Wayanad MP, who has been questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged relationship with billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani, whose business empire has come under scrutiny after allegations of stock manipulation and fraud.

“Shri Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March 2023 in terms of the provisions of Article 102(1)(e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951,” the Lok Sabha Secretariat said in a notification issued on Friday.

Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, says that the moment a member of parliament is convicted of any offense and sentenced for at least two years, she or he attracts disqualification.

Shashi Tharoor, another senior Congress MP, said it bodes ill for democracy.

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“I’m stunned by this action and by its rapidity, within 24 hours of the court verdict and while an appeal was known to be in process. This is politics with the gloves off and it bodes ill for our democracy,” he tweeted.

Congress units in several states this morning launched simultaneous protests, accusing the Centre of political vendetta.

The BJP has said the conviction has come from an independent judiciary after Gandhi insulted the OBC community with his ‘thief’ remark.

A court in Gujarat’s Surat on Thursday sentenced Rahul Gandhi to two years in jail in the case, filed on a complaint by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi for his alleged remark, “How come to all thieves have Modi as the common surname?” The court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal to a higher court.

Rahul Gandhi can now challenge the decision in court. Congress leaders have questioned the legality of the move, saying it is only the President who can disqualify MPs in consultation with the Election Commission.

If the verdict is not cancelled by any higher court, Rahul Gandhi will not be allowed to contest elections for the next eight years.

According to Gandhi’s team, the Congress leader plans to challenge the verdict in a higher court.