A key Indian opposition leader has been disqualified from parliament after he was sentenced to two years in jail for making defamatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul Gandhi, 52, was convicted in a magistrates’ court on Thursday, sparking protests among his Congress party members in some parts of the country.
Officials in the Congress party said the judgment was politically motivated and blamed Mr Modi’s government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has dismissed the accusations.
Gandhi, who is chairman of the Indian Youth Congress – the youth wing of the Congress party – was found guilty of defamation over comments he made relating to Mr Modi’s surname at a 2019 rally before the last general election.
Gandhi asked the crowd at the event as he criticised the prime minister’s economic policies: “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?”
He went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, and banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi and Narendra Modi.
Gandhi’s great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of India, and his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi also held the position.
The defamation case against Gandhi was filed by a BJP leader in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
The complainant, Purnesh Modi, said Gandhi’s comments “defamed the entire Modi community”.
BJP president J P Nadda claimed Gandhi had insulted a section of the Indian people who share the same surname as Mr Modi.
“It is one thing to question government regarding the policies, that would be considered a healthy debate, but clearly the Congress has never followed such rules,” he said.