New Delhi, Dec 9 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday said a person is disqualified from contesting polls if their conviction in a criminal case is not stayed.
The observation from the top court came as it dismissed the appeal filed by Saritha S. Nair challenging the rejection of her nomination papers by the returning officer in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 from Kerala’s Ernakulam, citing her conviction and sentencing in the solar scam. Congress candidate Hibi Eden won the seat.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “The disqualification under Section 8(3) (of the Representation of the People Act) will continue so long as there is no stay of conviction. In the case on hand, the petitioner could not obtain a stay of conviction but obtained only a stay of execution of the sentence. Hence her nominations were validly rejected by the Returning Officer.”
In the present case, the bench dismissed Nair’s contention that her rejection of her nomination papers was not correct, as her imprisonment of three years was suspended.
Nair contended that she filed nomination in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi constituency and the same information, about her conviction and pendency of appeals, was disclosed and her nomination was accepted there. She argued that as long as the sentence of imprisonment remained suspended, the disqualification under Section 8(3) is not attracted.
However, the top court dismissed the argument.
“Merely because the Returning Officer in Amethi Constituency committed an error in overlooking this fact, the petitioner cannot plead estoppel against statutory prescription,” it said,
Citing a Constitution bench verdict, the three-judge bench said that it had made it clear that the suspension of the execution of the sentence would not alter or affect the conviction and that therefore such a person would remain disqualified under Section 8(3).
Nair had challenged the October 31, 2019 order of the Kerala High Court, which dismissed her election petitions challenging the Lok Sabha polls in Wayanad and Ernakulam. The High Court had noted that her nomination papers were rejected due to conviction in the two criminal cases was not suspended.
The apex court, making a sharp observation on High Court verdict, said: “The High Court committed a grave error in holding the 3 defects as incurable. The defects are curable and as rightly contended by the counsel for the petitioner, an opportunity to cure the defects ought to have been given.”
On November 2, the Supreme Court had dismissed Nair’s plea against the election of former Congress President Rahul Gandhi in 2019 from Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala. “Even on second call, no one was connected through video conferencing. The special leave petition is dismissed for non-prosecution,” the court had recorded in its order.
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