Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday said that the Supreme Court’s decision to stay his conviction in a defamation case was a victory of truth.

“This had to happen as the truth emerges victorious one day or the other,” Gandhi said at a press conference. “My future course of action is clear in my mind and I thank the people of India for showing such love and support towards me.”

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court stayed Gandhi’s conviction in the criminal defamation case for a speech in which he asked why many thieves had the surname Modi. The decision means that Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership can be restored.

A Surat court had convicted the former Congress chief on March 23 for remarks made in his speech ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The court had awarded Gandhi the maximum punishment of two years in the case, which led to his immediate disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP.

Under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a legislator sentenced to jail for two years or more stands to be disqualified from the date of conviction till six years after serving time.

On Friday, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said that it has to be seen that how long it takes for Rahul Gandhi to be instated as a member of the Parliament.

“It took only 24 hours to disqualify Rahul Gandhi, now it has to be seen when they reinstate him,” Kharge said. “This [judgement] is the victory of the people, the victory of the voters. It is the victory of the people of Wayanad.”

Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the party has been feeling Gandhi’s absence in the ongoing Monsoon Session.

“Through point of information, I told the chairperson in the Parliament about the court’s decision and said that his membership should be reinstated at the earliest,” he said.

Opposition leaders from other parties also welcomed the Supreme Court order. Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal said that the court’s intervention reinforces people’s trust in Indian democracy and the judicial system.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said that the order will “further strengthen the resolve of the INDIA alliance to unitedly fight for our motherland and win”.

The judgement

A bench of Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha and PV Sanjay Kumar said that the trial court did not give any specific reasons for imposing the maximum punishment – two years of imprisonment – in the defamation case against Gandhi.

“Particularly when the offence was non-compoundable, bailable and cognizable, the least which was expected from the learned trial judge was to give reasons for imposing the maximum punishment,” the court observed.

The bench also said that had the sentence given to Gandhi been even a day lesser, then he would not be disqualified from the Lok Sabha.

The court also noted that the ramifications of the lower court’s ruling were wide and adversely affected the rights of the people of Wayanad, the constituency Gandhi represents in the Lok Sabha.

The Supreme Court, however, said that Gandhi’s remarks were not in “good taste” and that a person in public life ought to have been more careful while giving speeches.