Congress leader Rahul Gandhi can get reprieve from being disqualified as a member of Parliament under The Representation of People's Act until his appeal comes before a higher court in Gujarat.
Section 8 (3) of the Representation of People Act states that disqualification cannot take effect until three months have elapsed from the date, if within that period an appeal or application for revision is brought in respect of the conviction or the sentence.
Speaking to Rediff.com, former Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy said, "Rahul Gandhi's suspension will not be automatic as you think it is."
"Section 8 (3) of the People's Representation Act gives him three months' time and he can file an appeal in that time," the former CEC added.
Surat's Chief Judicial Magistrate H H Varma, who on Thursday, March 23, 2023, held Rahul Gandhi guilty under Indian Penal Code sections 499 and 500, gave him 30 days to appeal in a higher court, and kept the sentence in suspension till then.
"Rahul Gandhi can go to a higher court and if that court stays the conviction the disqualification may not apply. Section 8(3) of RPA clearly lays down what are the conditions of disqualification,"Krishnamurthy ecplained.
The Congress on Thursday said Rahul Gandhi would file an appeal against the Gujarat court's verdict finding him guilty in a 2019 criminal defamation case and alleged that he was being punished for raising his voice for the truth.
"A sentence of two years imprisonment for defamation is a very rare occurrence," senior Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde told Rediff.com.
Interestingly, it was Rahul Gandhi who as Congress vice president in 2013 tore up then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh's ordinance which sought to negate the Supreme Court judgment that sitting members of Parliament and legislative assemblies either jailed on charges or after conviction, would have to resign their seats forthwith.
If a higher court rules against Rahul Gandhi in the defamation case, in all possibility he will not be able to contest elections for the next six years.