The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the conviction of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 1988 road-rage case, and confirmed that he was free to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha by-election in February.
Last month, the BJP star campaigner resigned as MP from Amritsar after the Punjab and Haryana High Court found him and his friend Rupinder Singh Sandhu guilty of causing the death of a person in Patiala. The court sentenced both to three years in prison. Sidhu then challenged the conviction in the Supreme Court.
A bench of Justices GP Mathur and RV Raveendran made it clear that the stay order would remain in force till Sidhu’s appeal was finally decided. The court’s decision to put on hold Sidhu’s conviction removes the legal bar which would have prevented him from contesting. A person sentenced for more than two years cannot contest elections.
The bench said it would be wrong "to hold as a matter of rule" that a person’s conviction should never be suspended, thereby preventing him from entering Parliament or an assembly. It would be unfair to Sidhu if he was not allowed to contest the Amritsar seat, which had fallen vacant only on account of his voluntary resignation on moral grounds.
Following the court order, the BJP renamed Sidhu as its candidate from Amritsar. BJP chief Rajnath Singh made the announcement, saying the party’s central election committee had already decided on Sidhu, provided his conviction was stayed.
(Inputs from Shekhar Iyer)