Statement by the Socialist International Condemning the Conviction and Suspension of Rahul Gandhi from Parliament in India

2 August 2023

The Socialist International strongly condemns the conviction and subsequent suspension of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from Parliament in India, stemming from a 2019 criminal defamation case. We express our grave concern over this action, which we view as a serious threat to democratic values, freedom of expression, and the vital role of the opposition in a democratic society.

The Supreme Court's issuance of notice on the petition filed by Rahul Gandhi seeking the suspension of his conviction in the defamation case is an important step in addressing this matter. The case, filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Gujarat legislator Purnesh Modi, revolves around statements made by Gandhi during a pre-election campaign speech in Karnataka, questioning the presence of the name "Modi" in the names of certain individuals and its association with alleged wrongdoing.

While we acknowledge the right of individuals to protect their reputation, the severity of the conviction and the subsequent suspension from Parliament raise concerns about the impact on democratic principles and the rights of political leaders to express their opinions freely. The suspension has resulted in Gandhi's inability to fulfil his parliamentary duties, which is a setback for democratic representation and the people of the Wayanad constituency in Kerala, whom he represents.

The Socialist International emphasizes that pluralism, open political debate, and the rule of law are the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy. The right to criticize, question, and engage in political discourse is fundamental to democratic governance. Any attempt to stifle dissent or criticism undermines the democratic fabric of a nation.

We call upon the Indian judiciary to ensure a fair and impartial hearing for Rahul Gandhi's plea and consider its impact on democratic representation. We urge the judiciary to uphold the principles of freedom of expression and the right of political leaders to participate in parliamentary proceedings without unwarranted hindrance.

Furthermore, we urge all parties involved in this matter to refrain from unnecessary delays in the legal process, considering the time-sensitive nature of the issue and its implications on the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament. The ability of elected representatives to fulfil their responsibilities should not be unduly compromised.

The Socialist International reiterates its commitment to defending democracy, human rights, and the rule of law worldwide. We stand in solidarity with the people of India and call for the protection of democratic values and the preservation of a robust democratic space, where diverse voices and opinions can flourish for the collective benefit of the nation. The international community must remain vigilant in safeguarding the democratic principles that uphold the rights and freedoms of all citizens.

In Solidarity for Progress