ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Disqualification Debate

Law and Politics

Locating Rahul Gandhi’s “disqualification” within the legal-constitutional frameworks en­ables us to generate evaluative questions for thinking about constitutional democracy: What are the objectives of disqualification and how integral is it to achieving accredited and nor­mative standards of democracy?

Ujjwal Kumar Singh acknowledges the support received from the University of Delhi under the IoE project on Electoral Integrity and the Model Code of Conduct.

The disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Parliament has largely been presented as a story of three speeches and a court order, beginning with his “Modi surname” speech in an election rally in Kolar in April 2019, leading to his conviction on 23 March 2023 by a Surat trial court. The court found the speech defamatory and serious enough to attract the maximum punishment of two years—meeting the threshold for disqualification of a member of Parliament (MP) under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951.

There are two hinge points in the narrative, however, without which the Kolar speech would have been inconsequential—Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Parliament on 7 February 2023, his first after the Bharat Jodo Yatra, and his speeches in the University of Cambridge. Gandhi’s speech in Parliament was a strident criticism of the government’s policies and the Prime Minister’s “comfortable” relationship with Gautam Adani, who in a recently published report by Hindenburg Research was accused of stock manipulation and accounting fraud in running his behemoth conglomerate. In the first week of March, lecturing at the University of Cambridge, Rahul Gandhi spoke of the threat to democracy in India under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime. It was in the context of these two speeches that the Kolar speech, which was already the basis of a defamation petition by a BJP member of the legislative assembly (MLA) with a “Modi surname,” became consequential. Filed in December 2019, the petition was held in abeyance by the petitioner himself and reactivated after Rahul Gandhi’s Parliament speech.

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Updated On : 5th Jun, 2023
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