India's parliament has restored opposition leader Rahul Gandhi's lawmaker status two days after the Supreme Court suspended his conviction in a criminal defamation case.

The Congress leader was disqualified as a lawmaker in March after he was convicted and sentenced to jail.

The case was filed over comments he made at a 2019 election rally about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname.

Mr Gandhi can also contest the general elections next year.

On Monday, the office of the Lok Sabha – the lower house of India's parliament – said in a statement that Mr Gandhi's disqualification had ceased to operate "subject to further judicial pronouncements".

Mr Gandhi was a Congress party MP from Wayanad in the southern state of Kerala.

His conviction and disqualification had sparked protests from the Congress and other opposition parties, which accused the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of targeting him. The BJP had denied this, saying due judicial process was followed in the case.

Speaking at a rally in Karnataka state in 2019, Mr Gandhi had said: "Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi."

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.

BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi filed a defamation case against Mr Gandhi, alleging that the comments had defamed the entire Modi community. Mr Gandhi had argued that he made the comment to highlight corruption and it was not directed against any community.

He was convicted by a court in Gujarat state in March and sentenced to two years in jail. He lost his MP status a day after his conviction – in accordance with a 2013 Supreme Court order which says that a lawmaker convicted in a crime and sentenced to two or more years in jail stands disqualified from parliament with immediate effect.

The court then granted Mr Gandhi bail to appeal against his conviction and in July, the Gujarat high court dismissed his appeal.

But on Friday, the Supreme Court suspended his conviction, saying that the reasons given by the trial court judge for giving the maximum punishment of two years to Mr Gandhi were "without sufficient reasons and grounds".

It also said that the Congress leader should have been more careful while making the alleged remarks.

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