India’s Rahul Gandhi appeals after court denies stay of defamation conviction

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday appealed to the High Court in the western state of Gujarat seeking a stay of conviction in a defamation case, challenging a lower court’s ruling against his plea, his lawyer said.

Gandhi was convicted last month in a case brought by a state lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after comments he made that were deemed to be insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other people surnamed Modi.

The 52-year old scion of India’s Congress party was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. His petition seeking a stay of conviction was rejected last week.

“We have filed an appeal challenging the Surat district court’s order,” Gandhi’s lawyer, Pankaj Champaneri, told Reuters.

Gandhi also lost his parliamentary seat following the conviction since lawmakers sentenced to jail terms of two years or more are automatically disqualified and barred from running for election.

His sentence will remain suspended until he exhausts all legal challenges.

Two more defamation cases have also been filed against Gandhi elsewhere in India relating to the same comment.

(Reporting by Sumit Khanna, writing by Sakshi Dayal, editing by Nick Macfie)