Ahmedabad, India court in the West India Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was found guilty of defamation on Thursday over a speech he gave in 2019 in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi, and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Gandhi was present at the court in the city of Surat in the state of Gujarat Prime Minister Narendra Modihis country of residence. He was granted bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days.
A criminal defamation case was filed against Gandhi by the leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after a speech during the 2019 general election in which he referred to the surname Modi and asked how all the thieves got the surname.
“The court found Rahul Gandhi’s comment defamatory. The court found him guilty under Article 499 of the Iraqi Penal Code with a reading of 500. He was sentenced to two years in prison,” said Ketan Reshamwala, the plaintiff’s lawyer for Poornish Modi.
Gandhi said in court that he made the comment to highlight corruption and not against any society.
Gandhi is one of the main opposition leaders in the country who will face Modi when he seeks his third term as prime minister in 2024.
The once Gandhi-dominated Congress commands less than 10% of the elected seats in the lower house of parliament and has lost heavily to the BJP in successive general elections, most recently in 2019.
Modi remains India’s most popular politician by a large margin and is widely expected to win his third victory in the next general election in 2024.