The Gujarat High Court Wednesday overruled an order by the Veraval court last week, and granted stay on the conviction for disqualified Congress MLA from Talala, Bhaga Barad.
Suspending Barad’s conviction, the court of Justice SH Vora clarified that the court “has not examined the merits of the matter at this stage and therefore, all the contentions are kept open to be agitated before the appellate court, who in turn, shall decide the same in accordance with law, uninfluenced by the observations recorded in the impugned order (of July 3, of the Veraval trial court)”.
Barad’s appeal for a stay on conviction was remanded to the Veraval sessions court for a second time by the Gujarat High Court, on June 26, on account of the trial court’s absence of providing a reasoned order to this effect.
Hearing Barad’s appeal for a stay on conviction for a third time, the Veraval sessions court on July 3 denied Barad a stay on his conviction, in a reasoned order. After perusing several judgments, which had been referred to by the Gujarat HC as precedents, the sessions judge concluded that conviction cannot be suspended if the applicant doesn’t disclose the “evil and all adverse circumstances and disqualifications (are) likely to be affected.”
The lower court in its reasoned order stated that none of the parties had brought it to the court’s attention that Barad had already been disqualified by then, when he moved the lower court the first time. Therefore, the court saw no reason to suspend his conviction on the ground that if conviction is not stayed, his membership as an MLA shall be cancelled.
Advocate Rajesh Buch, who was representing Barad at the Veraval court, had also argued that if the trial court suspends Barad’s conviction, then the disqualification order by the Assembly Speaker would not remain effective. Buch had also said that Barad’s was an “exceptional case.” He had averred to the very merit of Barad’s conviction and pointed out that the foundational facts of the prosecution remained unproved, which meant Barad could get an acquittal in his appeal petition.
However, the trial court judge MM Babi in its July 3 order, remained unconvinced by the lawyer’s argument and rejected his application.
Barad had been convicted on March 1 this year to two years nine months of rigorous imprisonment on a 24-year old limestone mining case, by a magistrate court. Within three working days, on May 5, the Assembly speaker Rajendra Trivedi had then disqualified Barad.
A stay on his conviction was granted by a Gir Somnath sessions court on March 7. On March 10, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced bypolls for the Talala constituency, thereby considering the seat to be vacant. However, the bypoll announcement was subsequently stayed by an order of the apex court.