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13 Muharram 1446  

India court bails Rahul Gandhi in latest defamation case

Gandhi, 53, has not spent any time in custody over the charge
Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of Congress party, sits in a car as he leaves after appearing at a court in Bengaluru, India on June 7, 2024. Reuters
Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader of Congress party, sits in a car as he leaves after appearing at a court in Bengaluru, India on June 7, 2024. Reuters

An Indian court on Friday granted bail to opposition leader Rahul Gandhi in the latest of several defamation cases brought against him for accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his party of corruption.

Gandhi, 53, has faced numerous legal cases brought by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was last year briefly disqualified from parliament after a criminal libel conviction.

He is one of several top opposition leaders to face criminal proceedings in cases they claim are politically driven by Modi’s government.

The latest case stems from advertisements published by Gandhi’s Congress party accusing the BJP of corruptly taking commissions from infrastructure projects in southern Karnataka state.

Gandhi, 53, has not spent any time in custody over the charge.

He was granted bail in a five-minute procedural hearing held to determine if he should remain at liberty, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala confirmed to AFP.

Two other senior Congress figures in Karnataka state had already been bailed last week, neither of whom were in custody beforehand.

Gandhi was sentenced to two years imprisonment last year in 2023 in a separate case in Gujarat but was not jailed after appealing with India’s top court.

The sentence did however force his brief disqualification from parliament until the Supreme Court suspended his conviction.

Friday’s case came days after Modi and the BJP won nationwide elections, albeit with a reduced majority forcing them to rely on coalition partners to govern.

Critics have accused Modi and his party of using the justice system to target political rivals.

US think tank Freedom House said the BJP had “increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose party is a member of a broad opposition alliance led by Congress, was jailed this year in connection with an ongoing graft investigation.

Kejriwal was briefly bailed last month, allowing him to campaign in the election, but returned to custody once voting concluded.

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