Notwithstanding his conviction and sentencing in the fodder scam case, former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad can still contest elections, as the Supreme Court has left an escape route for convicted politicians.
A bench headed by justice AK Patnaik, which on July 10 ordered immediate disqualification of legislators on conviction, said a convicted person could contest an election if his/her conviction and sentence — both were stayed by a superior court.
Under Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, a convicted person becomes disqualified to contest elections.
The SC verdict, however, said under Section 389(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, an appellate court could stay both the order of conviction and sentence.
Exercising their inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 of the code, high courts too could do it.
But “an order granting stay of conviction is not the rule but is an exception to be resorted to in rare cases depending upon the facts of a case”, the bench clarified quoting from an earlier verdict.
“Where the execution of the sentence is stayed, the conviction continues to operate. But where the conviction itself is stayed, the effect is that the conviction will not be operative from the date of stay. An order of stay, of course, does not render the conviction non-existent, but only non-operative,” it said.
In January 2007, the SC had stayed the conviction and sentence of cricketer-turned-BJP politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in a road rage death case, paving his way for contesting the Amritsar Lok Sabha by-poll necessitated by his resignation.
“It is not possible to hold, as a matter of rule,... 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,” it had said.
But the SC refused similar relief to former Rajya Sabha MP DP Yadav’s son Vikas Yadav, sentenced to four-year imprisonment in the Jessica Lall murder case, for contesting 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.