Shahabuddin seeks suspension of conviction to contest polls (Lead)

March 19th, 2009 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Sanjay Dutt New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) parliamentarian Mohammed Shahabuddin Thursday requested the Supreme Court to suspend his conviction in a case of attempted murder to enable him contest the Lok Sabha election - but court turned down his plea for an early hearing.
Declining to give the request an urgent hearing, a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said it would hear the plea only on March 23, the date fixed for it.

Appearing for Shahabuddin, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi sought an apex court direction to the Patna High Court to hear his client’s plea for suspending his conviction before March 30, so that if the plea is allowed, he can file his nomination papers for the Siwan Lok Sabha seat.

Singhvi added that alternatively, the apex court itself may hear the plea.

Singhvi explained to the court that the Election Commission has slotted March 23-30 for filing nominations for the Siwan constituency, but Patna High Court Judge Chandramohan Prasad did not appear willing to hear Shahabuddin in time.

Singhvi told the apex court that his client had earlier represented to the Patna High Court chief justice for an early hearing of his plea but this was turned down.

Unwilling to give any “preferential hearing” to Shahabuddin’s plea, the apex court bench said: “There are thousands of cases pending (in the Patna High Court). I am told it takes six months for a fresh case to come up for hearing.”

“You cannot have a preferential hearing,” said the bench, which also included Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia.

Shahabuddin was convicted May 5, 2007, for kidnapping and trying to kill a CPI-ML activist, Chote Lal, in February 1999. After convicting the RJD leader, a Siwan court had in August 2007 sentenced him to 10 years in jail.

Under India’s electoral laws, anyone convicted for a criminal offence and sentenced to jail for more than two years is barred from contesting the polls.

Shahabuddin was separately convicted in 2006 and sentenced to a two-year jail term for carrying out an armed raid on the CPI-ML office in 1998. But his conviction in this case does not jeopardise his right to contest an election.

Shahabuddin moved the apex court close on the heels of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, who too has moved the apex court for suspension of his conviction for possessing illegal arms ahead of the 1993 serial terror bombings in Mumbai.

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