SUCHA SINGH Langah, who has been announced as the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from Dera Baba Nanak for the Punjab Assembly election, cannot contest because of his conviction and three years’ sentence in a disproportionate assets case.
Langah, who is among the 69 candidates declared by SAD on its first list on Wednesday, was convicted on February 11, 2015, sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 1.10 crore in a DA case by the Mohali district court. The Representation of the People Act, 1951, bars anyone convicted and sentenced to more than two years in jail from contesting elections.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court admitted Langah’s appeal against the Mohali court verdict on March 4, 2015, to be heard within three months. Five days later, the HC suspended his sentence till the pendency of his appeal but not his conviction.
Justice Paramjeet Singh Dhaliwal had then ordered, “Keeping in view the fact that the appeal has been ordered to be listed within three months, no useful purpose would be served by sending the applicant-appellant behind bars; […] sentence of the applicant-appellant shall remain suspended till final decision of the appeal.”
In the 20 months since, Langah’s appeal was not heard even once by the HC.
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Addiitonal Solicitor General Satya Pal Jain and former BJP MP from Chandigarh, said, “A person whose conviction has not been suspended during the pendency of his appeal and only sentence has been suspended, cannot contest elections.” Senior advocate ML Saggar, who has handled a number of election petitions, seconded Jain’s legal stand by expressing that unless the conviction is suspended, a candidate cannot contest election.
A five-judge Supreme Court bench in the Sarat Chandra Rabha and others versus Khagendranath and others case has ruled that suspension of sentence does not wipe out the conviction and sentence. The court held that if suspension does not have the effect of wiping out the conviction and sentence, it is “difficult to accept” that the candidate’s disqualification gets wiped out during the pendency of the appeal.
On May 16, 2002, during the Congress regime, the state vigilance bureau had registered a case against Langah and 10 others under Prevention of Corruption Act and had arrested Langah. The case was registered for accumulating assets when he was a minister in SAD-BJP government between 1997 and 2002.
On May 16, 2002, the state vigilance bureau had registered a case against Langah and 10 others under Prevention of Corruption Act and arrested him. He was charged with accumulating assets as minister in the SAD-BJP government between 1997 and 2002.
In its February 11 order, the Mohali court had observed, “The convict Sucha Singh Langah as a public servant being Cabinet minister of Punjab accumulated property in his own name and in the names of his wife, minor sons and daughters as well as Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College Society worth Rs 80 lakh, disproportionate to his known source of income, which he has failed to explain and he being a public servant committed criminal misconduct.”
Despite repeated attempts, Langah did not respond to calls and text messages.