With the Supreme Court on Tuesday refusing to suspend the conviction of Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt in a criminal case and enable him to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow, the Congress indicated that it could now field a candidate from there.
The apex court's order has delivered a body blow to the Samajwadi Party (SP), which had given Dutt a ticket to fight the polls, causing much embarrassment to the Congress for the actor's father, the late Sunil Dutt was associated with the party for a long time. His sister Priya is a Congress MP from Mumbai.
While the SP was yet to react to the court's decision, the Congress said the Supreme Court's verdict was final and that the party would now take a decision to field a candidate from the Uttar Pradesh capital.
It was the 'respect for his father' that the 'Congress decided not to contest the seat,' but now "the next decision will be taken on merit," senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily told reporters.
Dutt's counsel Harish Salve told a television channel that it is an 'order of the Supreme Court' and said the decision was taken 'considering the nature of the offence, this was not a freak case.'
He added: "There is no question of any recourse." Asked if he had spoken to his client, Salve said: "I don't need to."
A bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan refused to stay Dutt's conviction, saying his case does not have parity with that of cricketer-turned-BJP parliamentarian Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had resigned his seat after his conviction in a case of unintentional killing.
Reacting to the verdict, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: "It is the law of the land and it cannot be altered for anybody. Sidhu's case was far different from Sanjay Dutt."
Dutt, sentenced to six years in jail by a Mumbai anti-terror court, moved the apex court early this month seeking parity with Sidhu, whose conviction in a case of unintentional killing was stayed by the apex court in 2007 to enable him contest elections.
As per electoral laws, a person convicted for a criminal offence and sentenced to jail for more than two years is barred from running for elections.