A US Department of State spokesperson has said that Washington is watching Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's case in Indian courts in the wake of the latter's disqualification as an MP following a defamation case.
During a press briefing on Monday when asked if Rahul Gandhi's disqualification was consistent with democratic values, the Department's Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said: "Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy, and we're watching Mr. Gandhi's case in Indian courts, and we engage with the government of India on our shared commitment to democratic values -- including, of course, freedom of expression.
"In our engagements with our Indian partners, we continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression, as a key to strengthening both our democracies."
In response to another query if the US was still engaging with Rahul as the opposition leader, Patel said that although he did not have "any specific engagements to read out... it is normal and standard for us to engage with members of opposition parties in any country where we have bilateral relationships".
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On March 24, Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as member of the Lok Sabha, a day after his conviction in the 2019 'Modi surname' defamation case.
The Gandhi scion, who represented the Wayanad parliamentary constituency of Kerala, was disqualified under provisions of Article 102 (1) (e) of the Constitution of India read with Section 8 of Representation of the People's Act.
He was on March 23 sentenced to two years in jail by a Surat court in the case filed on a complaint by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi.