The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the conviction of Gujarat Congress leader Hardik Patel in a riot case, registered in the wake of the Patidar agitation in the state, till appeals against the trial court verdict holding him guilty are decided.
“Having heard Senior Counsel Maninder Singh and having regard to the facts and circumstances, we are of the view that this is the fit case for the high court to have stayed the conviction. The conviction is, hereby, stayed until the appeals are decided accordingly,” ordered a bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath granting him the relief.
In July 2018, the sessions court at Visnagar had sentenced Patel to two years’ imprisonment for rioting and arson in the town during the 2015 Patidar quota stir. The Gujarat High Court granted him bail in August 2018.
Patel, who wanted to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, prayed the high court for a stay on the conviction as under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, anyone convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years is disqualified from contesting elections .
But in March 2019, the HC rejected his plea. The HC noted that he had several criminal cases and 17 FIRs registered against him despite an undertaking. It also took into account the number of pending cases against him across various courts before rejecting his plea.
On Tuesday, senior advocate Maninder Singh appearing for Patel told the court that not allowing him to contest elections is a violation of his right to freedom of expression. Singh pointed out that Patel had already lost one chance to contest the election in 2019. He also contended that the state had misused police power against Patel.
Appearing for the state of Gujarat, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the question before the court is not Patel contesting the election and added that the case should be decided based on criminal law parameters. “In criminal law, there is no one standard guideline to say which one is right. Your lordship may decide the issue. Whether Patel might have won or not, is not the issue in this case,” said Mehta.
Mehta also submitted that there is one charge under Section 395 (dacoity) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Patel “which is really serious.”