SC rejects Sanjay Dutts plea to contest LS polls

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 2 2009, 04:11am hrs
Throwing water over the Samajwadi Partys strategy to wrest control of the prestigious Lucknow seat by fielding Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected his plea to allow him to contest the Lok Sabha elections by staying his conviction in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

The adverse apex court decision has also dashed the expectations of several others like RJD MPs Pappu Yadav and Mohammed Shahabuddin and LJP MP Suraj Bhan Singh. Convicted on various charges, these MPs had been hoping for a favourable judgement from the Supreme Court in the Sanjay Dutt case so that they too could seek relief on similar grounds. Pappu Yadav had even visited the Congress headquarters recently, hoping for a ticket from the party.

In view of the serious offence for which he (Sanjay Dutt) has been convicted...we are not inclined to suspend the conviction and sentence awarded by the Special Judge, a bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said dismissing Dutts petition.

Responding to the judgement, the 50-year-old Dutt said in Lucknow that he respected the courts decision. I am a law-abiding citizen...I really respect the decision of the court...Lucknow is my home whether I contest the election or not, he said. Asserting that he had full faith in judiciary, Dutt said, I am not going anywhere. I am here to stay I am not leaving. Any candidate who will come will be my candidate. It is my seat and will always remain so.

Asked whether his wife Manyata will now be the SP candidate from Lucknow, he said that it will be decided by the party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and general secretary Amar Singh. The well known actor, whose father Sunil Dutt was a cabinet minister in the UPA government, had sought suspension of his conviction under the Arms Act in connection with the Mumbai blasts case. He has been sentenced to six years imprisonment and is out on bail granted by the apex court.

In its observation, the apex court asserted that Dutt is a well-known artists and not a habitual offender and whose father was also a well-known actor deeply involved in politics. Despite all these favourable circumstances, we do not think that this is a fit case where conviction and sentence could be suspended, the bench, also comprising Justices P Sathasivam and RM Lodha, said in its nine-page judgement. It pointed out that election law clearly prohibited Dutt from contesting the polls.

Law prohibits any person who has been convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years from contesting the election and such person shall be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release, the bench said. It said the power of the court to stay the conviction to enable a convict contest the elections has to be exercised rarely.

The Bench rejected Dutt's contention that his case should be considered on the lines of that of BJP leader Navjot Singh Sidhu whose conviction and three year imprisonment in a road rage death case was stayed by the apex court to enable him to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha bye election.