An Indian court found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation Thursday over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname and sentenced him to two years in prison.
The case against Gandhi dates to an election rally in 2019 where he said, “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” In his speech, he then went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi.
Gandhi was present at the court in Surat, a city in Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. He was given bail and the sentence was suspended for 30 days.
The criminal defamation case was filed against Gandhi by a 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 thieves had the surname.
“The court has found Rahul Gandhi’s comment to be defamatory. The court found him guilty under IPC section 499 read with 500. He has been sentenced to two years in jail,” Ketan Reshamwala, advocate for complainant Purnesh Modi, said.
Gandhi said in court that he had made the comment to highlight corruption and not against any community.
Gandhi is one of the main opposition leaders in the country who will go up against Modi when he seeks his third term as prime minister in 2024.