In December 2012, Beniwal and Sharma were convicted by a lower court for blocking a road and disrupting government work in 1997.
They were sentenced to three years imprisonment. Later, they got relief from an appellate court which stayed the duo’s conviction and sentence. Legal experts said that the apex court’s judgement can cast a shadow on their political future.
In its July decision in a writ petition filed by Lilly Thomas and Lok Prahri, the SC had struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which provided immunity to lawmakers from conviction and sentence till the appellate court decided the matter.
“The SC has now struck down Section 8(4) which provided immunity to a person who had filed appeal against conviction. Thus a person who has been convicted will be considered disqualified irrespective of the appeal,” said Pravin Singh Jasol, an Ahmedabadbased lawyer.
However, the court order did not specify whether a convicted MLA would be allowed to contest elections after the date of the judgment. So it is now left to the returning officer to decide if Beniwal and Sharma can stand in the assembly elections.
Beniwal’s lawyer said they have filed an appeal in stipulated time after the judgment in December 2012.
“The appellate court has stayed both the conviction and the sentence so there would be no disqualification until the appellate court decides the matter,” Umaid Singh Kichar, Beniwal’s lawyer, said.
Sharma and Beniwal did not lose their seats in the 13th Rajasthan assembly, voted in after the 2008 elections, the SC judgement said sitting members of Parliament and state legislature who have already been convicted and who have filed appeals or revisions which are pending will be saved from the disqualifications by virtue of sub-section (4) of Section 8.
“Since the conviction is prior to elections, they are not qualified to contest the polls. The SC judgment should be read in its true letter and spirit which said that whoever is convicted stands disqualified irrespective of the appeal in higher courts,” said Jagdeep Chokar, founder member of National Election Watch and a lawyer in the apex court.