On November 18, the high court had suspended the sentence awarded to Saini by a lower court for his role in the riot, granted him bail and fixed November 22 for hearing the application seeking suspension of conviction in the same case.
Justice Samit Gopal reserved the order after hearing Saini’s counsel and state government’s counsel on Tuesday. During the court proceedings, senior advocate IK Chaturvedi assisted by Aditya Upadhya argued on behalf of Saini that he (Saini) was implicated in the present case due to political vendetta, as a government headed by a rival party was in power when the Muzaffarnar riots took place in 2013. “Besides, it is a case of no injury and no public witness is available,” they added.
It was also contended on behalf of the appellant’s counsel that as a consequence of conviction, Saini has been declared disqualified as MLA and his assembly seat – Khatauli — has become vacant.
In addition to it, as per section 8 of the Representation of People’s Act, he cannot contest election for a subsequent period of six years, as he has been convicted by a court. Hence, in view of it, his conviction may be suspended in the interest of justice, the counsels further pleaded.
On the other hand, the counsel appearing on behalf of the state government opposed the prayer for suspending the conviction.
The bypoll for the Khatauli assembly seat is scheduled to be held on December 5.
Special judge, MP/MLA court, Muzaffarnagar had on October 11 sentenced Saini, who was elected MLA from Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar, and 10 others to two years’ imprisonment. The court had acquitted all the accused of the charge of attempt to murder.
Saini had challenged his conviction and sentence before the high court by filing the present criminal appeal.
According to constitutional experts, Saini has every right to approach the higher court against the conviction by the MP/MLA court but that will not save him from losing his current membership. However, if he gets a stay order from the high court against his conviction, he would be able to contest the election in future.
Earlier, the Supreme Court in its 2013 judgment, given in the case filed by Lilly Thomas and another, had ruled that any MP, MLA or MLC convicted of a crime and given a minimum of two years’ imprisonment, would lose the membership of the House with immediate effect, without being given three months’ time for appeal, as was the case before.