Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reached Surat in Gujarat on Thursday, where a court will deliver its verdict in a 2019 criminal defamation case filed against him over his “Modi surname” remarks.
Senior state Congress leaders, including GPCC president Jagdish Thakor, legislature party leader Amit Chavda, senior leader Arjun Modhwadia, AICC in-charge of Gujarat Raghu Sharma, were at Surat airport to receive Gandhi.
A huge number of party functionaries assembled at various spots in the city as a show of strength and support for Gandhi, with posters extolling him as ‘Sher-e-Hindustan’ (lion of Hindustan) and placards declaring that the “Congress will not bow before the dictatorship of the BJP” on display.
The case was filed against Gandhi for his alleged “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” remarks on a complaint lodged by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi.
The Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad made the alleged remarks while addressing a rally at Kolar in Karnataka ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate HH Varma had last week concluded hearing final arguments from both sides and set March 23 to pronounce its judgment in the four-year-old defamation case, Gandhi’s lawyer Kirit Panwala had said.
“Truth is put to test and is harassed, but truth alone prevails. Several false cases have been filed against Gandhi, but he will emerge from all these. We will get justice,” said senior Congress leader and MLA Arjun Modhwadia on Thursday.
Gandhi had last appeared before the Surat court in the case, filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 499 and 500 (dealing with defamation), in October 2021 to record his statement.
In his complaint, BJP MLA Purnesh Modi alleged that Gandhi, while addressing the poll rally in 2019, defamed the entire Modi community by purportedly saying, “How come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname?” Purnesh Modi was a minister in the first tenure of the Bhupendra Patel government. The ruling party legislator was re-elected from the Surat West Assembly seat in the December elections.
The final arguments resumed in the case last month after the Gujarat High Court vacated its stay on proceedings imposed on plea by the complainant demanding Gandhi’s personal appearance.
The lawyer for the complainant argued that CDs and pen drive containing the materials on Gandhi’s Kolar speech established the Congress MP indeed made the Modi surname remarks, and his utterances defamed the community.
Gandhi’s lawyer has argued the court proceedings were “flawed” from the beginning as the procedure laid down under section 202 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) was not followed. The CrPC section deals with postponement of issue of process.
The lawyer also argued that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and not MLA Purnesh Modi, should have been the complainant in the case because the PM was the main target of Gandhi’s speech.