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Can Rahul Gandhi’s election be set aside if found guilty for ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai,’ remark

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New Delhi, Nov 11: The Supreme Court pronounce an important order this week with regard to the Rahul Gandhi contempt case.

While Rahul Gandhi tendered an unconditional apology, it is entirely up to the Supreme Court to accept it or not. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved the verdict on the criminal contempt plea filed against Gandhi by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

The rules state that any person convicted shall be barred from contesting the elections or his election would be set aside in such an event. If convicted for contempt, will Rahul Gandhi's elections from Wayanad be set aside. Let us take a look at what the law says.

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When can a candidate be barred:

As per Section 8 (3) of R. P. Act, 1951, if a person is convicted of any offence and sentenced to an imprisonment of 2 years or more, he or she will be disqualified from contesting the elections. Moreover, if a person has been convicted, but is out on bail or parole, he or she is still disqualified from contesting an election.

The contempt law:

Section 12 of contempt of court act provides punishment for contempt of court in India. The section states that contempt of court punishment is simple imprisonment of 6 months or fine up to Rs. 2,000 or both.

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Going by this, Rahul Gandhi's election cannot be set aside. The law prescribes a maximum of 6 months or 180 days of punishment and the Election Commission rules speak of 2 years or more imprisonment clause for a candidate to be barred.

Under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined as willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.

Under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, criminal contempt has been defined as the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:

(i) Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or

(ii) Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or

(iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

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The Rahul Gandhi case:

Meenakshi Lekhi had filed the contempt plea against Gandhi for the "chowkidar chor hai" remarks against Narendra Modi, which the top court had said were incorrectly attributed to it.

Gandhi had made the remarks on April 10, the day the Supreme Court had dismissed the Centre's preliminary objections over the admissibility of certain documents for supporting the review petitions against the December 14 last year verdict in the Rafale case.

The court had given a categorical clarification that in its Rafale verdict there was no occasion for it to make a mention of the contemptuous observation that "chowkidar Narendra Modi chor hain" as has been attributed to it by Gandhi.

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Gandhi, in his explanation filed in the court earlier, had said that his statement was made in the "heat of political campaigning" and there was not the "slightest intention to insinuate" anything regarding the Supreme Court proceedings in any manner.

He had said that his April 10 statement was made in a purely political context to counter the "misinformation campaign" being led by senior BJP functionaries as well as the government that the apex court verdict of December 14 last year was a "clean chit" to the Centre regarding all the aspects of the Rafale deal.

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