Can Rahul Gandhi Be Disqualified As MP? A Lakshadweep Precedent
Congress’s Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a defamation case for his comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thrown up a big question over his fate in the Lok Sabha. While it has given fuel to the BJP, which has been batting for his removal for over two months, the Union law ministry’s handling of the case of an MP from Lakshadweep provides an interesting precedent.
The Law Ministry has recommended the reinstatement of PP Mohammed Faizal after his conviction in an attempt to murder case was put on hold by the Kerala High Court.
The MP was initially convicted by a court in Lakshadweep in January. But a week later, the Kerala High Court had suspended the conviction and said his disqualification as a Lok Sabha member will no longer be valid.
The Election Commission, meanwhile, had announced by-polls in the constitution of Mr Faizal, who belongs to Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party. The MP challenged the decision in Supreme Court, following which the court asked for a cancellation of the Commission’s order.
As for Rahul Gandhi, sources in the Congress concede that he faces immediate disqualification if he does not challenge the verdict. Mr Gandhi, they said, will do exactly that and will not be attending parliament for a while.
Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, says that the moment a member of parliament is convicted of any offence and sentenced for at least two years, she or he attracts disqualification. According to experts, the Lok Sabha Secretariat can disqualify Rahul Gandhi on basis of the Surat court order and declare his Wayanad constituency vacant.
Lok Sabha officers dealing with disqualification procedures, however, told NDTV on condition of anonymity that there is “no rule book as such”. “Show me your face and I will show you the rule book,” one of them emphatically said.
In case of Rahul Gandhi’s conviction, they said the usual practice is to wait till the 30-day period is over to take a call.
Mr Gandhi was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison today in a four-year-old criminal defamation case over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname. Mr Gandhi had apparently said, “How come all thieves have the common surname Modi?” after which the case was filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi in Gujarat.
He was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to allow time for an appeal.