Congress leader Rahul Gandhi may be at risk of being disqualified from parliament following his conviction and a two-year jail sentence in a 2019 criminal defamation case, some legal experts said on Thursday.
Though Mr Gandhi was granted bail and his sentence was suspended for 30 days to let him appeal the decision, the court’s order puts him at risk of disqualification as a member of parliament under the law, experts said.
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, based on the Surat court order, the Lok Sabha Secretariat can disqualify Rahul Gandhi and declare his Wayanad constituency vacant.
The Election Commission will then announce a special election for the seat.
This scenario comes into play unless the conviction is put on hold by a higher court.
If the verdict is not cancelled by any higher court, Rahul Gandhi will also not be allowed to contest elections for the next eight years.
According to Mr Gandhi’s team, the Congress leader plans to challenge the verdict in a higher court.
If the appeal for suspension of sentence and a freeze on the order is not accepted there, they will make their way up to the Supreme Court.
Experts also said that a two-year sentence in a criminal defamation case under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, under which Mr Gandhi was convicted, is extremely rare.