Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's appeal challenging the order of the Surat sessions court declining a stay to his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his "Modi surname" remark will now be heard by a new judge of the Gujarat High Court on April 29.
As per the cause list published on Thursday by the High Court, Gandhi's appeal will be heard by Justice Hemant Prachchhak on April 29. Earlier on April 26, when Gandhi's lawyer P S Champaneri mentioned the case before Justice Gita Gopi, she recused herself from the hearing by saying "Not before me."
The development came a day after Gandhi moved the HC.
A metropolitan magistrate's court in Surat on March 23 sentenced the former Congress president to two years in jail after convicting him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (criminal defamation) in a 2019 case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Gujarat MLA Purnesh Modi.
Following the verdict, Gandhi, elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala in 2019, was disqualified as a Member of Parliament (MP) under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act. Gandhi challenged the order in a sessions court in Surat along with an application seeking a stay to the conviction. While granting him bail, the court on April 20 refused to stay the conviction.
Purnesh Modi filed a criminal defamation case against Gandhi over his 'How come all thieves have Modi as the common surname?' remark made during an election rally at Kolar in Karnataka on April 13, 2019.
A stay to the conviction could pave the way for Gandhi's reinstatement as a Member of Parliament.
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