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SC censors Munna’s poll dance
R Sedhuraman/Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 31
Drawing a clear distinction between the cases of Sanjay Dutt and Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Supreme Court today rejected the film star’s plea for allowing him to contest the Lok Sabha poll by staying his conviction and six-year sentence by a TADA court in connection with the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

“In the present case, no such circumstances are in favour of the petitioner” (Sanjay), a three-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan observed, after pointing out the reasons for which the apex court had stayed Sidhu’s three-year sentence in a road rage killing case.

In a 9-page judgement, the Bench, which also included Justices P Sathasivam and RM Lodha, said Sanjay's counsel Harish Salve had “placed reliance” on the apex court decision in Sidhu’s case. But Sidhu was a sitting MP from Amritsar and he could have continued as an MP even after his conviction and sentence in view of Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act, 1951. But he resigned and expressed his desire to contest the election from the same constituency again.

Further, Sidhu had been acquitted by the trial court and subsequently found guilty by the High Court. “It was in those circumstances this Court granted stay of the order of conviction and sentence in that case,” the Bench explained in its judgement, written by the CJI.

Sanjay’s appeal against his conviction and sentence by the TADA court for illegal possession of firearms is pending before the apex court. The TADA court had, however, given a clean chit to the actor on the charges relating to his conspiracy in the bomb blasts and links with dreaded terrorists, including Dawood and Anees Ibrahim and Abu Salem.

“In view of the serious offence for which he has been convicted by the Special Judge, we are not inclined to suspend the conviction and sentence,” the apex court ruled.

Sanjay would have been able to contest the Lok Sabha election from Lucknow as a Samajwadi Party candidate only if he had obtained a stay as anyone sentenced to two years or more is barred from entering the poll fray under the RPA.

The Bench, however, made it a point to acknowledge that Sanjay “is a well-known cine artist” and had a “large number of fans throughout the country and abroad.” His father, Sunil Dutt, was also a well-known film actor and was “deeply involved in politics” that enabled him to become a Cabinet Minister at the Centre.

The court also put it in black and white that Sanjay was not a “habitual criminal”, nor had it been brought to its notice that he was involved in another criminal case. “Despite all these favourable circumstances, we do not think that this is a fit case where conviction and sentence could be suspended…the power of the Court under Section 389 CrPC shall be exercised only under exceptional circumstances,” the court ruled.




Sorabjee describes order as ‘excellent’

New Delhi: Eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee today described the Supreme Court’s order barring film actor Sanjay Dutt from contesting the Lok Sabha elections as “an excellent order”, keeping in spirit of the legislation that bars a convicted person from contesting elections.

“Any other order would have given a wrong signal. The law is clear-- any one convicted cannot contest,” he told a news channel.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act says any person convicted for a crime and sentenced to more than two years cannot fight elections till six years after the completion of his sentence.

However, in January 2007, the Supreme Court had stayed the conviction of cricketer-turned-parliamentarian Navjot Singh Sidhu in a road-rage case and allowed him to contest the parliamentary byelection in Amritsar. — UNI



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