Poll-related offences “are a direct assault on the peaceful conduct of such elections and, therefore, need to be sternly dealt with,” a Delhi court said Tuesday, sentencing AAP MLA Manoj Kumar to three-month imprisonment for obstructing work at a polling station during the 2013 Assembly elections.
Holding that “punishment needs to be deterrent in this case”, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal observed, “The convict was himself contesting the elections and is, therefore, expected to know the laws which govern the election process in this country.”
“Our country is a democratic republic and democracy is the essence of governance of the country,” he said. “The conduct of public representatives or those who aspire to be public representatives shall be above board and unquestionable.”
It, however, granted bail to Kumar on furnishing a personal and surety bond of Rs 10,000, after he said he will file an appeal against his conviction before the appellate court. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Kumar, who was held guilty of obstructing a public servant in discharging public functions, punishable under IPC section 186, and for disorderly conduct in or near polling stations, punishable under Section 131 of Representation of the People Act.
The case was lodged on a complaint regarding over 50 protesters disrupting the poll process, led by Kumar, at an MCD school in East Delhi’s Kalyan Puri. Kumar, currently the MLA from East Delhi’s Kondli, denied the charges and said the case was politically motivated and police had framed him. His advocate Gaurav Kumar Singh prayed for leniency on the ground that he has a 13-year-old daughter who must be taken care of due to an ongoing matrimonial dispute with his wife. The counsel urged that he be released on probation.
In his seven-page order, the judge observed, “I am not inclined to grant benefit of probation to the convict despite he being eligible for it.”
Additional Public Prosecutor Lalit Pingolia argued for maximum sentence, as the offence was serious in nature and adequate punishment could serve as an example to those interfering in the electoral process. The judge said, “None of the reasons given on behalf of the convict compels me to consider a lighter sentence for the aforesaid violations…”
“Ordinary people have the tendency to emulate their leaders and therefore it is imperative that the conduct of those who lead the society and make laws for them should be an ideal on the scale of constitutional morals.Disorderly conduct and even shouting outside polling station is a punishable offence… and therefore even though the election process was complete in this case, the act of the convict… needs to be punished,” the judge said.