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The Hindu journalist lies about conviction of BJP’s Babu Bokhiria to insinuate Rahul Gandhi became a ‘victim’ of vendetta politics, here is the truth

The Hindu journalist invoked a decade-old conviction case of Gujarat BJP minister Babu Bokhiria and lie blatantly about it to portray the Gandhi dynast as a victim.

On March 24, India’s Parliament disqualified senior Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi from the Lok Sabha. The decision came after Surat Court convicted the Gandhi scion and sentenced him to two years in a 2019 criminal defamation case. Since his disqualification, the dynasty-run party’s members and sycophants have been practically crying hoarse and spreading all sorts of misinformation to insinuate that Rahul Gandhi has become a victim of BJP’s vendetta politics. One such person joining the bandwagon on Friday was Mahesh Langa, a ‘journalist’ with The Hindu.

Langa took to Twitter on March 24, hours after the news of Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification became public, to invoke a decade-old conviction case of Gujarat BJP minister Babu Bokhiria and lie blatantly about it to portray the Gandhi dynast as a victim. Nevertheless, he was fact-checked as soon as he posted the lies.

Sharing a hashtag in support of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Mahesh Langa tweeted, “In 2013, Gujarat Cabinet minister Babu Bokhiria was convicted for two years in a mineral theft case. He was not disqualified and did not even resign from cabinet. After two weeks, his appeal for staying the conviction was granted. #RahulGandhi.”

To Langa’s dismay, Akhilesh Mishra, the CEO of BlueKraft and the digital director of MyGov, the government’s citizen interaction portal, fact-checked The Hindu journalist by citing facts that are easily accessible on several public platforms.

Mishra quickly reminded the so-called journalist that BJP leader Babu Bokhiria was convicted on June 15, 2013. Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act was in effect at the time, which said that if a convicted lawmaker appeals the conviction at a higher court within 3 months of the conviction, there is no need to resign. Therefore, there was no need to resign for Babu Bokhiria as he had appealed the judgement within 3 months. The Supreme Court of India struct down section 8(4) of the RPA on July 10, 2013, after which disqualification has been automatic.

“Babu Bokaria was convicted on June 15, 2013. At this time, Sec 8 (4) of RPA applied and thus there was NO requirement to resign. The Supreme Court verdict, now the law of the land, came on 10th July 2013. Since then disqualification is automatic,” Akhilesh Mishra tweeted.

As rightly pointed out by Mishra, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgment on 10 July 2013 in which it struck down Section 8(4) of the Representations of Peoples Act, 1950 as unconstitutional. This judgement was delivered in the case of Lily Thomas vs Union Of India & Ors ((2013) 7 SCC 653) which was presided over by Justice A.K. Patnaik, Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya.

The Supreme Court had delivered the judgement in response to two PILs filed by Supreme Court lawyer Lily Thomas and NGO Lok Prahari challenging Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as being unconstitutional. Accepting the petitions, The Supreme Court held that Section 8(4) is indeed ultra vires to the constitution. 

Importantly, the apex court had added that sitting members who have previously benefited from Section 8(4) would be unaffected by this decision. Therefore, as Babubhai Bokhiria had taken the benefit of section 8(4) of the RPA before the Supreme Court struck it down, here was not liable to resign. Although the Congress party had demanded his resignation after the court verdict, he was not legally bound to do so.

On the other hand, as the said section no longer exists, Rahul Gandhi doesn’t have any protection from disqualification now, and what the parliament did was according to the law, as section 8(3) of RPA says that if any MP or MLA convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of conviction, and the disqualification will continue for six years after release from jail.

Meanwhile, Babubhai Bokhiria, a member of the BJP party who was twice elected as an MLA in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly in 2012 and 2017, was sentenced in June 2013 to three years imprisonment in an alleged limestone mining scam. A Gujarat sessions court stayed Bokhiria’s conviction in July 2013. He was acquitted in late 2014.

Hence it is apparent that the court convicted Bokhiria in June 2013, while the apex court judgement on the disqualification of elected representatives following their conviction and sentencing occurred a month later in July 2013. As such, playing the mindless blame game and accusing the BJP of vendetta is completely ridiculous, which Congress adherents should avoid at this time and instead recommend various legal avenues to get the Gandhi scion out of this quandary.

It is interesting to note that the UPA-II government at that time had tried to overturn the Supreme Court judgement by bringing an amendment, and an ordinance was also issued to make it applicable immediately. But Rahul Gandhi himself had objected to this amendment, called it total nonsense, and had trashed it in front of the media. The amendment was withdrawn after this public humiliation of the Manmohan Singh government by its own leader.

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