BHOPAL: In a major jolt to the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court dismissed on Friday a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state government, challenging the MP High Court’s suspension of conviction and two years jail sentence to a BJP MLA Prahlad Lodhi in a 2014 criminal case.
“The apex court’s two-judge bench comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Ravindra Bhatt, while dismissing the state government’s SLP, observed that the Madhya Pradesh High Court had rightly stayed the MLA’s conviction on November 7,” Harmeet Singh Ruprah, one of the three counsels who appeared for the BJP MLA told The New Indian Express.
While the state government was represented by senior advocates-turned-politicians Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, the BJP MLA was represented by former Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohtagi, former Madhya Pradesh Advocate General Purushendra Kourav and Harmeet Singh Ruprah.
“We submitted before the apex court that our SLP merited hearing as the High Court while granting a stay on the conviction and punishment of the BJP MLA on November 7 had not followed the principles of the Supreme Court, as per which the conviction can only be stayed in exceptional circumstances. But the court didn’t agree with our submissions and dismissed the SLP challenging the HC order,” legal eagle and Congress Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha said.
Reacting to the SC dismissing MP government’s SLP, the state BJP president Rakesh Singh said “the development amounts to a slap on Congress’s face in MP. He also condemned the MP Vidhan Sabha Speaker NP Prajapati’s hasty decision to disqualify the BJP MLA within two days of being convicted in the criminal case by a Special Court in Bhopal. The SC order makes it crystal clear that Prahlad Lodhi will remain a member of the MP State Assembly and the Speaker now needs to tender a public apology for his hasty and wrong decision.”
It now remains to be seen whether the Assembly Speaker revokes the disqualification of the BJP MLA or not, particularly as the next session of MP Vidhan Sabha is slated from December 17.
On November 7, a single judge bench of MP High Court in Jabalpur headed by Justice Vishnu Pratap Singh Chauhan had directed that the conviction and sentence of the appellant Prahlad Lodhi shall remain suspended till January 7, 2020.
In its interim order passed on Thursday, the single judge HC bench had also observed that on the basis of forgoing discussions without commenting on merits, the Court had found a strong case in favour of the appellant for suspension of sentence.
Importantly, Prahlad Lodhi, the first-time BJP legislator from Pawai assembly seat (who defeated Congress veteran and ex-minister Mukesh Nayak in 2018 polls) was convicted by a Special Court in Bhopal on October 31, 2019, in a 2014 case pertaining to an assault on a government team in Panna district. The special court awarded two years jail term along with fine to the 12 convicted accused, including the BJP MLA.
Two days later, the Vidhan Sabha Speaker Narmada Prasad Prajapati declared the convicted BJP MLA disqualified as also his assembly constituency vacant in pursuance of an SC order of 2013 paving the passage for automatic disqualification of convicted lawmakers in the event of punishment of two years jail term or more.