NEW DELHI - India’s top court on Friday suspended the defamation conviction of Rahul Gandhi, a decision that could pave the way for the senior opposition politician to return to parliament after his disqualification.
Gandhi, 53, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in March in a case that critics have said showed threats to the rule of law in the world’s largest democracy. He was turfed out of the legislature as a result but has stayed out of jail while appealing the case up to the Supreme Court in New Delhi.
A justice there said that the initial trial judge had failed to justify imposing the maximum sentence on Gandhi for his comments, made during a campaign rally four years ago.
“The order of conviction needs to be stayed pending final adjudication,” Justice B.R. Gavai said in his ruling.
Gandhi is the leading face of the opposition Congress party, once the dominant force of Indian politics. He is also the scion of India’s premier political dynasty and the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.
But Congress has for years been repeatedly crushed in elections by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its nationalist appeals to India’s Hindu majority.