New Delhi: A convicted criminal, an aspiring MP - Sanjay Dutt isn't the first person to ask a court to suspend his conviction so that he can contest an election.
Dutt's main obstacle is the Representation of People Act, Section 8 of which says that any person convicted for a crime and sentenced to more than two years, cannot fight elections till six years after the completion of his sentence.
Under these circumstances, stay orders become the window that politicians with criminal use.
It started with Navjot Singh Sidhu in 2007 when the Supreme Court suspended his conviction for murder and allowed him to contest the Parliamentary by-election in Amritsar. Sidhu won and now every politician is following suit.
“It is the failure of judicial system that we are unable to conclude our criminal trials quickly,” says senior advocate Prashant Bhushan.
No court has followed the precedent of the Sidhu case. Mohammed Shahabuddin, convicted in seven criminal cases, including murder, was denied permission to contest the Lok Sabha election by the Patna High Court last week.
Similarly, underworld don Babloo Srivastava, found guilty of murder, was not granted a stay on his conviction by the Supreme Court.
“SC must uphold the rule of law, it cannot make exceptions just because it likes one person or dislikes the other. Why not Babloo Srivastava, why not Madan Bhaiyya - why should they not be allowed to contest? And if they are allowed to, why have law at all?” asks Delhi HC lawyer R S Sodhi.
Two Lucknow lawyers have also filed a PIL asking the Supreme Court to not allow any future stays on convictions.
But that hasn't prevented other convicted people like Dutt from trying. RJD MP Pappu Yadav, convicted for murder and LJP MP Suraj Bhan from Bihar are both asking for a stay on their convictions.