Even as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has placed its bet on senior party leader Sucha Singh Langah for 2017 assembly polls by fielding him from Dera Baba Nanak constituency in Gurdaspur, his conviction in a disproportionate assets (DA) case will make him ineligible for contesting the election, according to legal experts.
The Akali veteran was convicted in the DA case in February 2015 by a SAS Nagar court. Subsequently, he had moved the Punjab and Haryana high court in March, where his sentence of three-year jail term was suspended, but conviction was not stayed.
“The Representation of People Act does not allow this (Langah contesting elections). Even if his sentence is suspended, his conviction remains,” said former Punjab advocate general and senior advocate Harbhagwan Singh. Another senior advocate APS Deol said the Section 8 of the Representation of People Act bars such persons from contesting elections who have been convicted for any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years.
However, the former minister told Hindustan Times: “My party has given me ticket after due deliberations. I will contest election because I am eligible to contest. My rivals are scared of my name. I respect courts, but the court of people is equally important. Legally I can contest. There is no problem.”
Sources in SAD say the party leadership has taken a “very calculated risk” by fielding Langah. The party is exploring legal options so that Langah’s nomination does not face hurdle before the election commission.
They say party may field a “kin” of Langah as his supporting candidate. If Langah fails to pass the EC scrutiny, party will project him as martyr to boost the prospects of the supporting candidate.
Langah was the public works minister in the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government (1997-2002). The state vigilance bureau had registered the FIR against 11 people, including Langah, in 2002 under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act. In February 2015, a court in SAS Nagar sentenced him to three years in the Rs 13-crore disproportionate assets case and imposed a fine of Rs 1 crore. Langah moved the high court on March 4 terming the trial court order as “erroneous, unsustainable and against the facts”. His sentence was stayed, but the appeal was admitted for hearing as per turn, which is yet to come.