SC declines urgent hearing on Hardik Patel’s plea to suspend conviction in rioting case

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The Congress leader moved the apex court seeking an ex-parte stay of his conviction in the 2015 Vispur rioting case

The Supreme Court denied urgent hearing to a plea by Congress leader Hardik Patel to suspend his conviction in a 2015 rioting case.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday denied him an out-of-turn hearing, raising questions on whether he would be able to contest the Lok Sabha polls of 2019 from the Jamnagar constituency in Gujarat.

The last date for filing nomination is April 4. Mr. Patel’s petition may now come up for hearing in the normal course, probably late this week or early next week.

He had moved the Supreme Court seeking an ex-parte stay of his conviction in the 2015 Vispur rioting case, saying the FIRs lodged against him by the ruling BJP in Gujarat is an effort to “suppress the voice of the masses”.

The Gujarat government on March 29 declined his plea to suspend his conviction in the case. The Sessions Court at Visnagar in Mehsana district had on July 25, 2018 sentenced Mr. Patel to two years’ imprisonment. He was found guilty of rioting and arson in Visnagar town during the Patidar quota stir of 2015. He had led the agitations.

Under the election law, a candidate facing two years’ prison sentence or more is disqualified from contesting elections unless the conviction is stayed. The high court in August 2018 had suspended the sentence, but not the conviction.

Mr. Patel, aged 25, is preparing to contest from Jamnagar after joining the Congress party on March 12. The last date for filing nominations is April 4. Polling for 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat will be held on April 23.

“The petitioner (Patel) is the leader of the Patidar Andolan and started his agitation in the year 2015. The ruling party of the State got registered a number of FIRs against him under various provisions of the law,” the petition for Mr. Patel, who is represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Prashanto Sen, said.

The petition said the filing of cases against him was “mala fide” and done with a “view to suppress the voice of the masses”.

He claimed the Gujarat High Court “ignored the facts and declined to interfere in the name of the pending FIRs”. Mr. Patel argued that past FIRs cannot be made a “guideline” for not denying him relief in the form of suspension of his conviction. He asked whether such FIRs be a basis for disqualification of a person under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951.

“While considering the prayer for suspension of conviction, the appellate court is to examine the consequence that may arise and irreparable loss that may be done to a person if the conviction is not stayed,” Mr. Patel argued.

“In the present case, he (Patel) may lose his right to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019,” the petition said.

He claimed his conviction by the trial court was based on hearsay evidence.

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