New Delhi: Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt’s plea to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections was on Tuesday rejected by the Supreme Court which refused to stay his conviction in connection with the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
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“We are not inclined to suspend his conviction,” a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said.
“It is not a fit case to grant stay of conviction,” the bench also comprising Justices P. Sathasivam and R.M. Lodha said.
Dutt had been fielded by the Samajwadi Party as its candidate for Lucknow Lok Sabha seat. The Court said Dutt was convicted for ”serious offence” under the Arms Act by a Mumbai TADA Court.
The bench said the actor’s situation is not similar to that of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu whose conviction and sentence in a road rage incident was stayed by the apex court to enable him to contest the Amritsar by-elections in 2007.
The bench said Dutt was disqualified from contesting the elections under the Section 8 (3) of the Representation of People Act, which debars a person sentenced to two or more years of imprisonment, from standing for polls.
The court, while disallowing the plea of Dutt, noted his father Sunil Dutt was a famous politician and a Union minister. The bench said Dutt was not a habitual criminal but it was not a fit to grant him relief.
The judge said though Dutt’s counsel had made submissions about the evidence in the case for the grant of relief, it cannot be considered at this stage since his appeal was pending in the apex court.
The court had on Monday reserved its order on Dutt’s plea after hearing the contention from the actor and the CBI which opposed his plea.
Rahul Gandhi begins campaign
Rahul Gandhi, scion of India’s most powerful family dynasty and touted as a future prime minister, hit the campaign trail on Tuesday with a populist message to boost the Congress party’s efforts to regain power.
The 38-year-old Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great grandfather were all prime ministers, is not the party’s main candidate but he has become a key tool of Congress to win over Indian youth as well as millions of poor villagers.
In his first campaign speech for the April/May general election against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he criticized the opposition for focusing too much on economic growth and pro-market reforms.
“If you go to a village and ask what India Shining means, the villagers are unable to understand what it means,” Gandhi told supporters in Maharashtra, referring to the slogan of the BJP’s last 1998-2004 government.
“This thinking is that of rich people. They fight for privatization, they fight for the stock market but do not reach your homes.”
Gandhi’s boyish appearance and his emphasis on tech-savvy blogging and texting may be crucial in a country where there will be 100 million first-time voters aged between 18 and 24.
His youth also contrasts in an election where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is 76 and BJP leader L.K Advani is 81.
For the next few weeks, he will be criss-crossing India in helicopter and plane to spots identified by election strategists as crucial in a vote that is difficult to predict.
Congress may contest 66-68 seats in Uttar Pradesh
Claiming the Congress party may contest from 66-68 seats of the total 80 seats in the state, senior party leader Digvijay Singh on Tuesday said “this time there was an undercurrent in their favour”.
“We may contest from 66-68 seats of 80 Lok Sabha parliamentary constituencies in the state. The party had announced candidates for 56 seats and names of candidates for another 10-12 constituencies will be finalised in next couple of days,” Singh said.
“Some decisions taken by the UPA government like the waiver of (Rs)72,000 crore loan of the farmers has increased people’s attraction towards Congress. We are getting good signals and the party had already kick started its campaign,” said Singh, who is incharge of elections in Uttar Pradesh.
He said that the party has decided not to field candidates against Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav.
Regarding pre-poll alliance with parties in Uttar Pradesh, Singh said the party was willing to contest the Lok Sabha in an alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
“We had some reservations over five seats on which senior Congress leaders were contesting. But then we are ready for a friendly fight. Rest of the seats are open for agreement,” he said.
The congress leader said however, Samajwadi Party was insisting on seat-sharing formula on the basis of results of the 2004 general elections.
“The party is of the view that considering fresh delimitation seat sharing should not be done on the basis of 2004 elections,” Singh Said, adding Congress was in process of forging alliances with smaller regional parties and a decision will be taken in the next two-three days.
“When SP has left four seats for the Congress, we will also leave a few seats for them,” he quipped, when asked to specify seats on which the Congress party will not field its candidates.