Factbox: How Rahul Gandhi's disqualification from Indian parliament works
NEW DELHI, March 24 (Reuters) - Here's how Rahul Gandhi, leader of India's opposition Congress Party, was disqualified as a lawmaker by parliament and what could happen next:
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the law that governs elections in India, mandates disqualification of any lawmaker who is "convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years".
A lower court sentenced Gandhi, 52, on Thursday to two years in jail on charges of defamation for a 2019 speech in which he referred to thieves as having the surname Modi. India's prime minister is called Narendra Modi.
His disqualification as lawmaker came into effect from the date of conviction. A formal disqualification notice was issued on Friday by the secretariat of India's Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament of which Gandhi was a member.
CAN GANDHI CONTEST ELECTIONS?
Gandhi faces the risk of not being able to contest the next general election due in 2024 if his conviction is not suspended or overturned, or the sentence is not reduced by a higher court.
The law also mandates that a convicted lawmaker cannot contest elections for six years after the end of their jail term.
Gandhi represented the Wayanad constituency in the southern state of Kerala.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said on Friday the party was confident the conviction would be suspended.
WHAT NEXT FOR GANDHI?
To save his parliament seat, a convicted lawmaker has to secure an order from a higher court suspending the conviction, lawyers said.
A lawmaker can be reinstated to parliament if the conviction is stayed or overturned and a fresh election to the seat had yet to be conducted. A reduced sentence would also remove the disqualification.
Gandhi was present in the Gujarat court which gave him bail immediately and suspended the sentence for a month, allowing him to appeal against it.
He can secure bail extensions during the appeal period but cannot contest elections until the conviction is stayed or he is acquitted or he gets a reduced sentence in the case.
Supreme Court lawyer Vikram Hegde said the most likely recourse for Gandhi was to appeal to a sessions court and seek a stay of conviction.
Once a court suspends the conviction, the disqualification ceases to operate, Hegde told Reuters.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2013?
In July 2013, India's top court ordered that lawmakers convicted of a serious crime would immediately forfeit their seats, closing off a loophole that had allowed politicians to stay on during appeals, which can drag on for years in India.
In response, then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, a coalition led by the Congress party, issued an executive order that could have allowed convicted lawmakers to continue to hold office and stand in elections.
Gandhi lambasted Singh's ordinance as "complete nonsense" and said it should be torn up and thrown out, embarrassing his own party and forcing the government to withdraw the decree.
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