Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has been reinstated in parliament on Monday following the suspension of his defamation conviction by the Supreme Court last week. The conviction was related to his political remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul Gandhi, the 53-year-old leader of the Congress party, was sentenced to two-year imprisonment in March in a case criticized as an attempt to suppress political opposition in India, the world’s largest democracy.
During the 2019 election campaign, Gandhi had questioned why “all thieves have Modi as their common surname,” a comment that was interpreted as a criticism of the Indian Prime Minister and those sharing the same surname, which is associated with lower caste groups in India.
After his conviction, he was disqualified from parliament, as Indian law prohibits anyone sentenced to a custodial term of two years or more from holding a parliamentary seat. However, his disqualification has now been lifted, with the Secretary General of the lower parliament house stating that it has ceased to apply unless further judicial decisions indicate otherwise.
Gandhi remained out of jail while appealing the case to the Supreme Court in New Delhi. The Supreme Court suspended his conviction, citing that the initial trial had not adequately justified imposing the maximum sentence for his comments made during a campaign rally four years ago.
Gandhi, a member of India’s prominent political family, had faced criticism for being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens despite his lineage of former prime ministers. The Congress party, once dominant in Indian politics, has lost ground to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in recent elections.