For actor Sanjay Dutt, who has been named the Samajwadi Party candidate for the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat, the doors of Parliament might not open, as his criminal past may come in the way of his political ambitions.
Convicted and sentenced to six-year imprisonment for possessing illegal arms during the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Dutt is currently on bail and his appeal against conviction is pending in the Supreme Court. According to Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a person convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or above is disqualified from contesting parliamentary or assembly elections.
Normally, while admitting appeals in a criminal case, courts stay only the operation of the sentence, which would not save him from being disqualified to contest elections. Dutt will have to approach the Supreme Court to get his conviction stayed.
The only convicted politician allowed to contest an election was cricketer-turned-BJP candidate Navjot Sidhu, who had sought a mandate from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat following his conviction in a road rage case. In a January 2007 order, the Supreme Court stayed his conviction till disposal of his appeal, allowing him to enter the electoral fray. “It is not possible to hold, as a matter of rule, or, to lay down, that in order to prevent any person who has committed an offence from entering Parliament or the Legislative Assembly the order of conviction should not be suspended. The courts have to interpret the law as it stands and not on considerations which may be perceived to be morally more correct or ethical,” the Supreme Court had said.
Earlier, in November 2006, a bench had ruled that a person sentenced to imprisonment for two years or above can contest elections, if his/her conviction is stayed by a superior court before filing of nomination papers.