Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi is set to appeal on Monday against his conviction and jail sentence in a criminal defamation case.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses a press conference at the AICC headquarters, on March 24, 2023 in New Delhi, India. Rahul Gandhi said that he does not care if he gets disqualified permanently from the Lok Sabha and claimed that he has been disqualified because Prime Minister is scared of my next speech on Adani.
Rahul Gandhi lost his lawmaker status after being sentenced to two years in jail. He was sentenced to jail by a court in Gujarat state for 2019 comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname at an election rally..
Opposition leaders have accused the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of a political vendetta.
The BJP has denied this, saying that due judicial process was followed in the case.
National elections are due in India next year, and Mr Gandhi will not be allowed to contest until his sentence is suspended or he is acquitted in the case.
Mr Gandhi will appear at the court in Surat city with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other top Congress leaders on Monday afternoon. Many Congress workers have gathered outside the court in support of Mr Gandhi, holding banners with the words "save democracy" on them. A senior police official told ANI news agency that a large number of police personnel have been deployed in Surat.
A member of Mr Gandhi's legal team told media that the politician will ask for a stay on his conviction in a sessions court. A decision in his favour would reinstate his place in parliament, while one against his appeal can be challenged by his lawyers in a higher court.
Mr Gandhi is currently on bail after being given time to appeal the judgement, which was passed on 23 March.
The defamation case against him, brought by BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi, revolved around comments Mr Gandhi made in Karnataka state during an election rally: "Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi," he said.
Nirav Modi is a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon while Lalit Modi is a former chief of the Indian Premier League who has been banned for life by the country's cricket board.
Purnesh Modi in his complaint had alleged that the comments had defamed the entire Modi community. However, Mr Gandhi said that he made the comment to highlight corruption and it was not directed against any community.
The Congress scion lost his seat in parliament a day after his conviction due to a Supreme Court order which says that a lawmaker convicted in a crime and sentenced to two or more years in jail stands disqualified with immediate effect.
Last week, Congress party members held protests in several states. Leaders of several other opposition parties also joined the protests.
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh alleged in a press conference that Mr Gandhi was being targeted by the governing BJP because of his comments about "Mr Modi's relationship with Adani".
In a speech in parliament on 7 February, Mr Gandhi had linked businessman Gautam Adani's rising fortunes with his proximity to the Mr Modi's government.
The Congress and other opposition parties have also been demanding that a committee of experts probe allegations of financial fraud against the Adani group.
In February, US-based investment firm Hindenburg Research had published a report accusing the Adani group of decades of "brazen" stock manipulation and accounting fraud. The group has denied the allegations.
"Mr Gandhi has been the prime minister's most strident and consistent critic," Mr Ramesh said on Friday.
BJP leaders have said that the party is not defending Mr Adani and accused Mr Gandhi of lying.