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Free speech for the body politic?


By Jan Arden

Rahul Gandhi’s attacks in prepared speeches at Cambridge and London, of Indian democracy, reportedly broken or dead while western powers are watching on, has come under intense fire as unbecoming criticisms on foreign soil of all Indian institutions from the Parliament, the Judiciary and investigating authorities in various financial fraud and corruption cases. A total absence of nuance and such wholesale statements considerably weakens the case being made by any politician. It would be akin and of the same stuff if a local big-wig were to say after nine years in power “LP did nothing while in office” to justify any of the government misfirings (water scarcity, lack of drains or social housing for instance).

A Surat court convicted Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case (Section 499 and 500 IPC) stemming from his alleged “Modi surname” remark. Pic – Law Trend

While the new era of nationalism and pride ushered by the Modi-led BJP regime over 9 years is palpable, such a broad-brush foreign foray by Rahul Gandhi therefore could only forecast another disconnect between the Congress and the Indian electorate in 2024. While trying to backtrack, Mr Gandhi called his attacks in the UK an exercise in free political criticism, one that tries to tarnish Mr Modi personally either through the failed Rafale-Ambani narrative in 2019 and now the Adani-Modi narrative about which rumblings are raised.

The extent and scope of his free speech came under test in court when a Modi surnamed MLA complained about his 2019 campaign hustling question whether all Modis were thieves. Refusing to clarify, amend or apologise over four years, as is his right, despite the Surat court offering him the opportunity, Rahul Gandhi was condemned for criminal defamation to two years jail, a conviction which his lawyers have up till now failed to request a stay of execution pending appeal. His seat then became automatically vacant and the lodging provided to Mr Gandhi as MLA in Delhi will have to be vacated. He may yet file appeal against the Surat court judgment and a higher court will decide whether to reverse the shock of that decision. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 31 March 2023

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