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India’s Supreme Court stayed Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a high-profile defamation case over the weekend, a ruling that could allow the opposition leader to return to parliament as a lawmaker and run in next year’s general election, Bloomberg reported.

The case began in March when a court in the western state of Gujarat sentenced Gandhi to two years in jail for allegedly making defamatory comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname during an election campaign in 2019.

That conviction resulted in Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament and jeopardized his participation in the 2024 elections.

But the country’s top court found that the lower court had not provided enough justification for its harsh sentence for Gandhi, who leads India’s main opposition Congress party.

The Supreme Court also noted that the conviction impacts “the rights of the electorate who have elected him to represent their constituency.”

Congress party officials and its supporters have criticized the March verdict and Gandhi’s disqualification as politically motivated. This accusation comes amid concerns that Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are using the country’s police and other independent institutions to cement their grip on power, the New York Times added.

While the recent verdict will clear the way for Gandhi to return to the legislature, his legal woes are not yet over: The Gujarat state court still has to rule on the merits of the defamation case.

Meanwhile, his disqualification from parliament has become a significant political issue, leading over two dozen opposition parties to unite with Congress to defeat Modi in the 2024 national elections.

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