Why is Rahul Gandhi no longer a Lok Sabha MP? What does his disqualification mean, how can he make a comeback as an MP?
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha on Friday. His disqualification was notified by the Lok Sabha Secretariat after he was convicted by a Gujarat court. Rahul was a Member of Parliament from the Wayanad constituency of Kerala. He attended the Lok Sabha today, hours before his disqualification was notified.
Why was Rahul Gandhi convicted and how did it lead to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha?
Rahul Gandhi was convicted by a Surat court for a comment he made in April 2019. Rahul reportedly said, "How can all thieves have Modi as their surname?"
He faced disqualification after serving a two-year jail term in a defamation case filed by BJP MLA and former Gujarat minister Purnesh Modi for the alleged remarks. He was granted bail to allow him to appeal to the High Court and the sentence was suspended for 30 days.
Offenses where legislators can face disqualification, Creating enmity between groups, Bribery, and impersonation during elections, Other electoral offenses, Offenses relating to rape and cruelty to women by husband and his relatives, Civil Rights Act, Limitation Tariffs Act, Offenses under the Protection of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Prevention of Sati Pratha, Corruption, Terrorism and Insult to National Flag and National Anthem, etc.
What does this mean for Rahul Gandhi?
The Congress leader will not be able to contest elections for eight years until his conviction and sentence are stayed by the High Court. According to the Representation of the People Act (RP Act), a person who has been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of two years or more shall be disqualified "from the date of a such sentence". The person shall remain disqualified for a period of six years after serving the time of sentence.
The offenses under which MPs can face disqualification if convicted are mentioned in section 8 of the RP Act. These are divided into several categories. The first category includes offenses that are punishable by disqualification for six years on any conviction. If a person has just been fined, then the period of 6 years starts from the date of conviction. In prison sentences, it begins from the date of conviction and continues for six years after release from prison.
After losing his membership, Gandhi would also lose the residential privileges of the official residence in the Lutyens area. He will have to vacate the 12 Tughlaq Lane bungalow allotted to him.
How can he return?
With the Lok Sabha disqualification, Rahul Gandhi's future in electoral politics hinges on getting legal relief. The Election Commission can declare his seat vacant and by-election.
Former MP and legal expert Majeed Memon is quoted as saying, "If Rahul's sentence is suspended after an appeal in court under section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, his disqualification from the Lok Sabha can be avoided. ",
Meanwhile, Rahul's party Congress is raising the issue that only the President of India can disqualify an MP. However, legal experts are of the opinion that Gandhi's conviction itself triggered the disqualification.