The Patna High Court on Monday put a stay on trial court proceedings in a defamation case filed against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for a speech he made in 2019 in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi, PTI reported.

The case was filed in Bihar by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi a few days after the former Congress chief delivered the speech in Karnataka’s Kolar while campaigning for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In his speech, Gandhi had referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fugitive Indian businessmen Nirav Modi and Lalit Modi while talking about alleged high-level corruption in the country.

On Monday, Justice Sandeep Kumar of the Patna High Court stayed the proceedings while hearing a plea filed by Gandhi. The Congress leader had argued in his plea that he had already been convicted for the remarks by a Gujarat court, and cannot be put on trial for the same matter again.

The judge stayed the proceedings till May 16. A trial court in Patna had earlier asked Gandhi to appear before it on April 25 to record his statement in the case.

On March 23, a court in Gujarat sentenced Gandhi to two years’ imprisonment in a criminal defamation case filed by BJP leader and Surat West MLA Purnesh Modi. This led to his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.

Purnesh Modi had claimed that Gandhi had “defamed 13 crore people living in the whole of India having the surname ‘Modi’”. But Gandhi told the court that he had made the comment to highlight corruption and not against any community.

On April 20, a Surat sessions court rejected the Congress leader’s appeal seeking a stay on his conviction. The court said that as a member of Parliament and the former president of the country’s second-largest political party, he should have been more careful with his words.