Rahul Gandhi sentenced to 2 years in prison for defaming Indian leader Modi

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi arriving at a courthouse in Surat, India
India’s opposition leader Rahul Gandhi arrives at a courthouse in Surat, India, on Thursday.
(Associated Press)

An Indian court Thursday found opposition leader Rahul Gandhi guilty of defamation over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname and sentenced him to two years in prison.

The case against Gandhi dates back 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 the prime minister.

Narendra Modi is not related to either of the other two people Gandhi cited.

The defamation case against Gandhi was filed by a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in western Gujarat state. The complainant, Purnesh Modi, said Gandhi’s comments had “defamed the entire Modi community.”


Modi is a common last name in western Gujarat state.

Gandhi, who was present in the court when the verdict was announced, said his remarks were meant to highlight corruption and were not directed against any community. He won’t go to jail immediately because the court granted 30 days’ bail to allow Gandhi to file an appeal.

Rahul Gandhi says India’s right-wing government is dividing the country along religious lines. Followers hope his cross-country march can save democracy.

Jan. 26, 2023

Mallikarjun Kharge, president of Gandhi’s Congress party, said Gandhi would appeal the verdict in a higher court and called Modi’s government “cowardly and dictatorial.”

After the verdict, Gandhi wrote on Twitter: “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God, and non-violence the means to get it.”

Gandhi, a lawmaker who is the son and grandson of two assassinated Indian premiers, is one of the main opposition leaders in India. He will most likely go up against Modi when Modi seeks his third term as prime minister in 2024.