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Congress leader and Member of Parliament from Wayanad Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on Friday, 24 March following his conviction in a criminal defamation case over his 'Modi surname' remarks.
Quick Recap: Following his remarks at a 2019 rally in Karnataka's Kolar, former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi filed the criminal case claiming Gandhi claiming that he defamed the entire Modi community by his statement.
On Thursday, 23 March, a Surat court sentenced him to two years in jail under Section 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code.
He was then released on bail so he can appeal the verdict.
Gandhi, however, is not the first Indian MP to be disqualified from the Parliament following criminal conviction.
Here are some other popular leaders who have faced similar consequences in the past:
1. Lalu Prasad Yadav: President of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD) and former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was disqualified from the Lok Sabha after his conviction in the multi-crore fodder scam in 2013.
Yadav stood disqualified for a total of 11 years — five years of jail term and six years subsequent to his release.
His was the first disqualification from the Lok Sabha after the Supreme Court, in 2013, struck down a provision that protects a convicted lawmaker from disqualification on the ground of pendency of appeal in higher courts.
2. J Jayalalithaa: In 2014, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa became the first sitting chief minister to face disqualification from the parliament after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case.
The court sentenced her to four years' jail term and slapped a Rs.100-crore fine in connection with the case.
3. Rasheed Masood: In 2013, Congress Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood was disqualified from the upper house of Parliament after he was found guilty of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery in allocating seats in a medical college.
Masood's was the first disqualification from the Rajya Sabha after the 2013 Supreme Court verdict that struck down the provision providing immunity to convicted lawmakers.
4. Azam Khan: In October 2022, a UP court sentenced Samajwadi Party leader and former Rampur MLA Azam Khan to three years in prison in connection with a 2019 hate speech case.
He was then disqualified from the state Assembly and the Election Commission (EC) announced a by-election for the Rampur seat.
After the announcement of the bypolls, Khan moved the Supreme Court against the ECI, challenging the announcement of the bypoll when his appeal against his conviction was still pending with the Rampur court.
The Supreme Court then directed that the Additional Sessions Judge, Rampur before whom the appeal has been filed to pre-pone the hearing of the application. The Rampur Court then rejected Khan's application, after which the EC, noting that the judge "has not granted stay in the matter", issued a revised schedule.
In the by-election, Bharatiya Janata Party's Akash Saxena defeated Azam Khan's protege Asim Raja by over 30,000 votes.
5. Abdullah Azam Khan: In February 2023, Azam Khan's son and former MLA from the Suar assembly constituency in Rampur district — Abdullah Azam Khan — was disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh assembly for the second time, days after a court sentenced him to two-year imprisonment in a 15-year-old case for blocking a road in the Chhajlet area of Moradabad.
Earlier, he was disqualified in February 2020 after a Rampur court sent him to prison in a case related to alleged forgery in age-proof documents.
What is the 2013 SC Judgement Which Affects Disqualification Cases? In 2013, the Supreme Court, in the Lily Thomas vs Union Bank of India case, had struck down section 8(4) of the Representation of The People Act (RP Act) that gave a convicted lawmaker the power to remain in office on the grounds that appeals have been filed within three months of conviction.
Section 8(4) of the RPA said that the disqualification takes effect only “after three months have elapsed” from the date of conviction. Within that period, the convicted lawmaker could have filed an appeal against the sentence before a higher court.
Interestingly, an ordinance was brought in by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2013 to shield convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification from the House. It was Rahul Gandhi, then, who as a token of protest against his own party and government tore the ordinance in a press conference.
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