India is currently in the throes of political upheaval following the Surat District Court convicting MP Rahul Gandhi in a defamation case for his ‘why all thieves share the Modi surname’ remark he made while campaigning in Karol in April 2019. The conviction subsequently led to his disqualification as MP from the 17th Lok Sabha with connivance of the Modi government. The developments evoke a sense of déjà vu, paralleling with declaration of Emergency by his grandmother in June 1975, which saw opposition politicians incarcerated, and free press gagged.  

Chief Judicial magistrate HH Varma sentenced Rahul to prison for two years, and imposed a fine of Rs. 15,000, on finding him guilty under sections 499(Defamation), and 500 (punishment for Defamation) of the IPC.

On Rahul’s plea, his sentence was suspended, and bail granted to enable him to appeal against his conviction within 30 days. What was Rahul’s ‘crime’? He cooped Prime Minster Modi with the likes of Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi, two Indian businessmen of dubious distinction who shared Surnames.   

Technically, anybody with Modi Surname stands ‘defamed’ by Rahul’s comment (read crime). Incidentally it was former Gujarat Minister Purnesh Modi who filed a complaint against Rahul under sections 499 and 500 of IPC for tarnishing his surname. For that matter every Tom, Dick and Harry carrying ‘Modi’ surname stands defamed by the Congress scion’s ‘off the cuff remark made in the heat of campaigning’.

As fallout of his conviction, the MP from Wayanad in Kerala was disqualified from Lok Sabha, as per Article 102(1) (e) and Representation of People Act, 1951 of the Indian constitution.

Rahul’s goose has been cooked legally and constitutionally.  He has to face the music.

But, there is another side of the coin of the entire incident. Is Rahul the only ‘criminal’ sitting in current Parliament, as its member?

As per the report released by National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Rights, close to 50% of members elected to the 17th Lok Sabha  in 2019, whose leader is Prime Minister Modi have declared criminal cases against them. Of 539 members, 233 have criminal cases against them- an increase of 44% since 2009, and as against 185(34%) of MPs with criminal records out of 542 MPs in 2014. 

A glaring example is Congress MP Dean Kuriakose from Idukki constituency in Kerala, who has declared 204 criminal cases against him, which include culpable homicide, house trespass, robbery, criminal intimidation, etc.

 The chances of candidates with criminal credentials winning elections in 2019 were 15.5% against 4.7 % for those with ‘clean records’. This suggests that a candidate’s chances of winning a seat to Parliament are directly proportional to his/her criminal record. In other words, ‘better criminals’ make it to Parliament!

Even Vijay Mallya was Member of Parliament!

What are the crimes attributed to MPs of the Lok Sabha?

They include murder (11), attempt to murder (30), rape (3), kidnapping (6), and hate speech (29).

Almost all political parties contribute to criminalization of politics. Janata Dal United (JDU) has the highest number of MPs with criminal records (81%).Others being INC (43%), DMK (41%), and BJP (39%). This translates to the fact that many of them filed their nominations by audaciously flaunting criminal credentials. Indian democracy permits even prisoners serving prison terms contest elections. The shameful and shocking statistics lay bear the dark underbelly of criminalized Indian democracy. Doesn’t the shameful and shocking statistics have one wonder if the judiciary has been unfair to Rahul, for ‘defaming’ the Modi surname?

Rahul’s so-called ‘crime’ pales before those committed by his Parliamentary colleagues from his own party and others.

What moral right does these sinners, much worse than Rahul have to stone him for his ‘crime’ in which he sarcastically pulled Prime Minister Modi’s leg by stapling him together with other Modis with Dubious records? After all Rahul didn’t kill, rape or attempt to kill fellow humans like his Parliamentary colleagues to whom he bid adieu.

The conviction of Rahul and his subsequent disqualification as MP is manifestation of the discomfiture and fear with which BJP currently beholds Rahul. He has been, of late proving to be an intolerable thorn in BJP’s flesh by demanding a discussion on BJP’s blatant collusion with, and shielding of Adani- the big-time financial offender from the long arm of law. Rahul added fuel to the fire by red- flagging on British soil the dangers Indian democracy is being put through under the present ruling disposition led by Prime Minister Modi.

The unsavory Rahul episode, must goad the judiciary to critically examine criminalization of politics with seriousness the unhealthy trend merits. Parliament should cease to be the den of criminals. Sooner the better that will be for Indian democracy already on its death bed.

 However, one cannot turn a blind eye to the positive fallout of Rahul being kicked out from Parliament by rulers in Delhi, with the judiciary’s blessings. The development could shackle the loose and brash tongues of politicians who have succeeded in making hate speech and distasteful diatribes intended to divide and tear this nation into pieces a national sport. Or, is this wishful thinking?

One hopes they will think twice before they open their mouths to spew venom, which today’s India can ill-afford. But, alas! Different standards apply for different political parties. In today’s India, a MP belonging to the BJP with blood on his hand and venom on her tongue will continue to attend Parliament, a honor which those from other political entities who comment on a famous surname cannot dream about.