Former Union law minister and legal luminary Kapil Sibal said on Thursday that while Rahul Gandhi’s two-year prison sentence automatically disqualifies him from running for office, the sentence itself is “bizarre.”
A Gujarat court found Mr Gandhi guilty of insulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was granted bail and given 30 days to file an appeal.
Throughout the day, there has been speculation about whether Mr Gandhi’s conviction will prevent him from serving in the Lok Sabha.
Mr Sibal, a former Congress member and one of the country’s most prominent advocates, stated unequivocally that Mr Gandhi is ineligible under the law.
“If the court only suspends the sentence, that is insufficient.” A suspension or stay of execution is required. “He (Rahul Gandhi) can only continue as a member of parliament if the conviction is overturned,” Mr Sibal told NDTV.
According to the law, if a person is convicted of any offense for two years, the seat becomes vacant, he explained. “The law requires it, and the Speaker will naturally act according to it,” he added.
In the Lily Thomas vs. Union of India case in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that “any MP, MLA, or MLC who is convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least two years in prison loses membership in the House.”
The court had declared “unconstitutional” Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction.
Mr Sibal, on the other hand, called the Surat court’s decision “bizarre.”
“For a statement made in respect of certain individuals, for him to be convicted for two years — it is completely bizarre,” said the senior leader, who resigned from the Congress in May last year amid much resentment and launched his new platform “Insaaf ki Sipahi” (platform for justice).
When asked about the BJP’s claim that Mr Gandhi’s remark was anti-caste and community, he responded, “What community? It was directed at a specific person. They can say whatever they want, but I can tell you it was directed at a specific person.”