The Supreme Court on Thursday suspended senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former Punjab minister Sucha Singh Langah’s conviction in a disproportionate assets case, thereby paving the way for him to contest the Punjab polls next month. The bench, comprising justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Rohinton Fali Nariman, after hearing arguments for two days, ruled in favour of Langah, 67, on Thursday. But the signed order is yet to be released, said Langah’s counsel Sudhir Walia.
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Representation of the People Act, 1951, bars any candidate convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act from contesting elections unless the appellate court suspends his conviction.
Langah was among 69 candidates whose name appeared on the first list of SAD on November 17 last year to contest the election from Dera Baba Nanak constituency. On February 1, 2015, he was convicted, sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 1.10 crore in a DA case by the Mohali district court.
It was on May 16, 2002, during the Congress regime, when the state vigilance bureau had registered a case against Langah and 10 others under Prevention of Corruption Act and arrested him. The case was registered for accumulating assets when Langah was minister in the SAD-BJP government between 1997 and 2002.
On December 21, last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had dismissed Langah’s petition and refused to stay his conviction. Left with little legal option, SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had even announced that Langah’s son would contest polls.
Thereafter, Langah had moved the Supreme Court, challenging the HC decision and was lucky to get relief on Thursday. His counsel Walia informed, “We argued before the apex court that it was during the Congress regime that a number of cases was registered against SAD leaders with political vendetta. If the conviction is not stayed, he would be debarred from contesting elections and the loss can never be undone.” Walia said it was submitted before the SC that while calculating Langah’s assets and concluding it as disproportionate assets, the incomes from his ancestral agricultural land, dairy farm were not considered.
The HC had on March 4, 2015, admitted Langah’s appeal against the Mohali court’s verdict to be heard within three months and it is still pending for a final decision.