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Not exactly on the back foot
What Next?
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, December 1
Today's judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court convicting BJP MP and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu in a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years, is a severe setback to the high-profile cricketer-turned-politician-cum-television star.

But, it is not the end of the road for him.

While the Punjab and Haryana High Court will begin hearing from December 6 on the issue of quantum of sentence to be awarded to Mr Sidhu and his accomplice, he will go in appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict.

Sources close to the Amritsar MP told The Tribune that he got in touch with his lawyers immediately on being informed about the potentially career-threatening judgement and sought their opinion.

He was told that it would still take some time before the court gives it judgement on the issue of sentence. Moreover, he can take heart from the directive of the court to the government counsel telling him not to arrest Mr Sidhu and his accomplice as yet.

The Bench also indicated that though a final decision would be taken only after hearing the petitioners, it would consider a request, if made, by the two accused for leniency in grant of sentence. It also did not rule out the possibility of granting bail to Mr Sidhu and his accomplice to enable them to move the apex court.

As of now, Mr Sidhu does not face any threat of being disqualified from the membership of the Lok Sabha. While he has decided to quit his seat in the wake of the adverse judgement, legal experts say unless the judgement achieves finality, which effectively means that the sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court and all appeals are decided, Mr Sidhu can't be asked to give up his seat.

Not only this, for future elections too, Mr Sidhu will be ineligible to contest only if the sentence is more than two years.

Sub-section (3) of Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, says that a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.

Sub-section (4) of the same Act says that the disqualifications will not take effect in case of a person who on the date of the conviction is a MP or the Legislature of a State till three months have elapsed from that date or, if within that period an appeal or application for revision is brought in respect of the conviction or the sentence, until that appeal or application is disposed of by the court.

"Simply put, these two sub-sections mean that Mr Sidhu faces no immediate threat to membership of the Lok Sabha or his future electoral aspirations. However, he can always decide to give up the membership on his own as he is doing now," says Mr Mohan Jain, a leading lawyer and former Advocate-General, Haryana.

He says Mr Sidhu can even contest the next Assembly elections from any constituency, including Patiala, from where the BJP was contemplating fielding him against Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

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