New Delhi, Nov 24: The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Karnataka legislator Ravikant S Patil who was disqualified by the state High Court for conviction in a rape case at the time of his election to the assembly.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice C K Thakker and Justice R V Raveendran set aside the order passed by the High Court in 2005 which disqualified the MLA on an election petition filed by one S S Bagali under the Representation of People's Act.
Patil, who migrated to Karnataka, was convicted by a sessions court in Maharashtra in 1999 for rape.
He challenged the disqualification on the ground that his conviction was stayed by the Bombay High Court on March 26, 2004, and his nomination papers were filed for Karnataka assembly on March 31, four days after he obtained the relief.
Patil also argued he was acquitted of the charges by the Bombay High Court on September 10, 2004.
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether an elected representative, whose conviction was stayed by a higher court, could be disqualified from holding the post under the act.
The three-member bench interpreting the CrPC provisions held that "where the execution of the sentence is stayed, the conviction continues to operate. But where the conviction itself is stayed, the effect is that the conviction will not be operative from the date of stay."
Though a stay does not render the conviction non-existent but only non-operative, the MLA cannot be disqualified as he had specifically sought intervention of the high court for staying the conviction, as otherwise he would incur disqualification to contest the election, the bench said.
The apex court reasoned that at the time of the nomination and election, in view of the order staying the conviction, the MLA could not be disqualified.
"The question whether subsequently the conviction was set aside in appeal or whether the matter is in further challenge before this court is of no relevance for deciding the point in issue," the bench remarked while setting aside the High Court's order.