Recently, the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was held guilty and sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat court in a 2019 defamation case.
About the case:
The Rahul Gandhi commented that “Why do all thieves, be it Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi or Narendra Modi, have Modi in their names”. These remarks were made during a rally in Kolar, Karnataka, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Verma convicted Gandhi in a 2019 defamation case, for saying ‘why do all thieves have the name Modi’, and sentenced him to two years in prison.
Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prescribes for defamation a simple imprisonment for a “term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
Ground of Disqualification:
Disqualification of a lawmaker is prescribed in three situations.
One of the prescriptions is under The Representation of The People Act (RPA), 1951.
There are several provisions that deal with disqualification under the RPA.
Section 8 of the RPA deals with disqualification for conviction of offences.
The provision is aimed at “preventing criminalisation of politics” and keeping ‘tainted’ lawmakers from contesting elections.
Section 8(3)of RPA states: “A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.”
How does the disqualification operate?
The disqualification can be reversed if a higher court grants a stay on the conviction or decides the appeal in favour of the convicted lawmaker.
In a 2018 decision in ‘Lok Prahari v Union of India’, the Supreme Court clarified that the disqualification “will not operate from the date of the stay of conviction by the appellate court.”
Lilly Thomas Case:
Under the RPA, Section 8(4) stated that the disqualification takes effect only “after three months have elapsed” from the date of conviction. Within that period, lawmakers could file an appeal against the sentence before the High Court.
However, in the landmark 2013 ruling in ‘Lily Thomas v Union of India’, the Supreme Court struck down Section 8(4) of the RPA as unconstitutional.