Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sucha Singh Langah on Wednesday suffered a major legal jolt to his bid to contest the Punjab assembly elections, after the Punjab and Haryana high court dismissed his appeal seeking to stay conviction in the disproportionate assets case.
Langah, a former cabinet minister and veteran SAD leader from Majha, has been declared by the party as its candidate from Dera Baba Nanak assembly segment for the 2017 polls.
The immediate fallout of the high court (HC)’s refusal to stay conviction means that the SAD will have to replace Langah and field a new candidate.
Now, the next option before Langah is to challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court.
However, according to Langah’s lawyer, senior advocate PS Hundal, the SAD leader has two options. “The court has given him liberty to approach the HC chief justice for hearing his main appeal during the winter break beginning December 25. Another option before Langah is to file appeal in the Supreme Court against Wednesday’s HC order,” Hundal said, while deliberations within the SAD were also underway to decide the next legal step.
In February 2015, an SAS Nagar court had convicted the Akali Dal veteran in the disproportionate assets case. His three years jail sentence was suspended by the HC in March 2015, but conviction was not stayed, which is now coming in the way of his poll prospects.
The Representation of People’s Act, 1955, bars such persons from contesting elections who have been convicted for any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years.
The SAD leader moved the high court on December 12, seeking stay on his conviction. But justice MMS Bedi dismissed the plea. The detailed order is awaited.
PUNJAB GOVT OPPOSED PETITION
While the SAD has given a party ticket to Langah, during the arguments in the court, the advocate general office of the Parkash Singh Badal government had opposed his application, stating that the high court should desist from staying conviction in the Prevention of Corruption Act cases, and that the power should be used judiciously keeping in view its ramifications.
Langah, meanwhile, argued that his conviction be stayed in view of party asking him to contest the 2017 assembly polls. Pleading to stay his conviction, Langah had submitted that otherwise he will suffer irreparable loss that can’t be undone subsequently. “Hence, conviction should be stayed,” his lawyer argued, stating that none of the witnesses supported the case of the prosecution.
His counsel stated that it had been found that the entire investigation was vitiated and also various material prosecution witnesses had categorically stated before the trial court that their statements were never recorded by any of the investigating officers.
It was further argued that there was no evidence proving that Langah had bought benami property in the name of other accused in conspiracy with them or had accepted illegal gratification. He was charged with “malafide intentions”, and hence, the case merited for stay on conviction, the counsel pleaded.
JAGIR KAUR HEARING ADJOURNED
Meanwhile, another division bench of justices AK Mittal and Ramendra Jain on Wednesday adjourned the hearing on an application of Bholath legislator and former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Bibi Jagir Kaur in a 2000 case related to her daughter’s murder.
In this application, the SAD leader has sought stay on the conviction stating that it has made her ineligible to contest the 2017 assembly elections. The matter will now be taken up on January 10.
In April 2000, the SAD leader’s daughter Harpreet Kaur had died under mysterious circumstances. Later, an inquiry conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on the HC directions, found Bibi Jagir Kaur’s involvement. In 2012, she was convicted on various counts -- forcible abortion of the victim’s child, wrongful confinement, abduction and criminal conspiracy -- except murder. In November 2012, the HC admitted her appeal. At present, the former SGPC chief is out on bail.