On Monday, Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will file an appeal against his conviction and prison sentence in a criminal defamation case.
A court in Gujarat state sentenced him to two years in prison for remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname at an election rally in 2019.
The Congress leader was later barred from running for office.
The opposition has accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of a political vendetta.
The BJP has denied this, claiming that the case was handled properly.
Mr Gandhi will not be allowed to run in India’s national elections next year unless his sentence is suspended or he is acquitted in the case.
On Monday afternoon, Mr Gandhi, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and other top Congress leaders will appear in court in Surat. Many Congress workers have gathered outside the court to show their support for Mr Gandhi, holding banners that read “save democracy.” According to a senior police official, a large number of police officers have been deployed in Surat.
According to a member of Mr Gandhi’s legal team, the politician will seek a stay of execution in a sessions court. A decision in his favor would restore his seat in parliament, while one against his appeal could be challenged in a higher court by his lawyers.
Mr Gandhi is currently on bail after being granted time to appeal the March 23 judgment.
The defamation case brought against him by BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi revolved around comments Mr Gandhi made during an election rally in Karnataka state: “Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi,” he said.
Nirav Modi is a wanted Indian diamond tycoon, while Lalit Modi is a former Indian Premier League commissioner who was banned for life by the country’s cricket board.
Purnesh Modi claimed in his complaint that the comments defamed the entire Modi community. Mr Gandhi, on the other hand, stated that he made the remark to highlight corruption and that it was not directed at any particular community.
A Supreme Court order states that a lawmaker convicted of a crime and sentenced to two or more years in prison is disqualified with immediate effect, so the Congress scion lost his seat in parliament the day after his conviction.
Members of Congress held protests in several states last week. Leaders of several other opposition parties also joined the protests.
In a press conference, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh claimed that Mr Gandhi was being targeted by the ruling BJP because of his comments about “Mr Modi’s relationship with Adani.”
Mr Gandhi linked businessman Gautam Adani’s rising fortunes to his proximity to Mr Modi’s government in a speech to parliament on 7 February.
The Congress and other opposition parties have also demanded that an expert committee investigate allegations of financial fraud leveled against the Adani group.
Hindenburg Research, a US-based investment firm, published a report in February accusing the Adani group of decades of “brazen” stock manipulation and accounting fraud. The allegations have been denied by the group.
Mr Ramesh stated on Friday, “Mr Gandhi has been the prime minister’s most strident and consistent critic.”
Leaders of the BJP have stated that the party is not defending Mr Adani and have accused Mr Gandhi of lying.
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