India's Congress lawmakers wear black to protest Rahul Gandhi's dismissal

Indian lawmakers from various opposition parties wear black as they hold a protest after the opposition Congress party?s leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a lawmaker by India's parliament, inside the parliament premises in New Delhi, India, March 27, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Lawmakers belonging to India's main opposition Congress party wore black outfits, held placards that said "Save Democracy" and threw paper in parliament on Monday in protest against the disqualification of their leader Rahul Gandhi from the chambers.

Gandhi, 52, lost his parliament seat on Friday, a day after a court in the western state of Gujarat convicted him and sentenced him to two years in jail for a defamatory comment he made during an election campaign rally in 2019.

Gandhi is out on bail and his lawyers are expected to challenge the verdict in a higher court this week.

"The decision to disqualify Gandhi marks a black day in our country's democracy," Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge, dressed in a black outfit and a black turban, told reporters outside parliament.

Gandhi told reporters on Saturday that he was disqualified from parliament for questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his relationship with Gautam Adani, founder of the Adani group business conglomerate.

"We will continue to question Modi and his government for manipulating state-run assets to favour one company," Kharge said.

Gandhi and other opposition leaders say the prime minister's longstanding ties with Gautam Adani helped the business group secure investments from state-run firms and win big ticket contracts such as the management of six airports.

Both the government and the Adani group have denied the accusations.

The Adani group is trying to rebuild investor confidence after U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research accused it of stock manipulation and improper use of tax havens - charges the company has denied.

Hindenburg's Jan. 24 report eroded more than $100 billion in the value of the company's shares.

Opposition lawmakers have been vocal about their demand for a joint parliamentary committee inquiry into Adani's finances, forcing the speaker to repeatedly adjourn proceedings of parliament.

A senior federal minister said Congress lawmakers were insulting parliament by not allowing it to function.

"They are determined to humiliate parliament, which is the temple of democracy," trade minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

(Reporting by Rupam Jain; Editing by YP Rajesh and Christina Fincher)

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