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Why India opposition leader Rahul Gandhi may lose parliament seat


A formal disqualification order will have to be approved by the secretariat of the lower house of parliament of which Gandhi is a member.

India’s leading opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, faces immediate disqualification as an MP after being sentenced to two years in prison in a defamation case.

Gandhi’s Congress party said it would take to the streets on Friday to protest his sentencing by a magistrate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Gandhi, 52, was found guilty of a speech ahead of the 2019 general election in which he referred to thieves with the surname Modi.

Gandhi, a scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, will appeal to a higher court, his party said.

Here’s how Gandhi is likely to lose his parliamentary seat:

What does the law say?

The Representation of the People Act, 1951, the law governing elections in India, prescribes the disqualification of any politician “convicted of any crime and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years”.

Gandhi was found guilty of libel on Thursday. The disqualification will take effect from the date of conviction.

However, a formal decision to disqualify will have to be approved by the secretariat of the House of Representatives of which Gandhi is a member.

Kapil Sibal, a top Indian lawyer and former federal law minister, told news channel NDTV on Thursday that while Gandhi is automatically disqualified as a legislator, his two-year jail sentence was itself “bizarre”.

“If it (the court) just suspends the sentence, that is not enough. There must be suspension or suspension of the conviction. He (Gandhi) can only stay on as an MP if the sentencing is stayed,” said Sibal, who is also a former member of the Congress party.

Can Gandhi contest elections?

Gandhi risks being unable to run in the 2024 national elections if his conviction is not suspended or overturned by a higher court before the election.

The law also stipulates that a convicted legislator may not contest an election for six years after the end of his prison sentence.

Gandhi represents Wayanad constituency in the southern state of Kerala.

How can Gandhi avoid disqualification?

To avoid disqualification, a convicted MP must get an order from a higher court to suspend the sentence, lawyers said.

The Representation of the People Act provides no timetable for obtaining such suspension or acquittal before Parliament passes the formal disqualification order.

The disqualification can also be overturned and the legislature reinstated in parliament if the conviction is suspended or overturned and a new election for the seat has yet to be held.

Gandhi was present at the Gujarat court, which immediately released him on bail and suspended the sentence for a month, allowing him to appeal against it.

He can get bail extended during the appeal period, but cannot run in elections until the sentencing is stayed or he is acquitted in the case.

“So while reports indicate that Mr Gandhi’s sentence has been suspended by the court that sentenced him, he should soon get a stay of sentencing from an appeals court to save himself from disqualification,” said Vikram Hegde, Supreme Court attorney.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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