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Bombay HC refuses to stay conviction of Congress leader, cites integrity and credibility of democratic process

A single bench of Justice Urmila Joshi-Phalke rejected Kedar's application seeking a stay on the conviction and suspension of the five year sentence imposed on him by a magistrate's court in December 2023.
Last Updated : 04 July 2024, 16:52 IST

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Mumbai: Disqualifying a person from holding public office post conviction was to maintain "integrity and credibility" of the democratic process, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court said on Thursday while refusing to stay the conviction and sentence imposed on Congress leader Sunil Kedar in the Rs 117 crore Nagpur District Central Cooperative Bank Limited (NDCC Bank) scam case.

A single bench of Justice Urmila Joshi-Phalke rejected Kedar's application seeking a stay on the conviction and suspension of the five year sentence imposed on him by a magistrate's court in December 2023.

Kedar, a senior Congress leader and former cabinet minister, was accused of misappropriating funds to the tune of Rs 117 crore of Nagpur District Central Cooperative Bank Limited (NDCC Bank) under the pretext of investment made by it in government securities through private brokers. Kedar was the bank's chairperson at the time.

Following the conviction by the magistrate's court, Kedar was disqualified as MLA under the provisions of Representation of the People Act.

Kedar in his application said if the conviction is not stayed then he would continue to be disqualified. He also claimed this would not only affect his rights to continue in public life but also affect the rights of the people who voted for him to represent their constituency.

The HC, however, said the purpose of the provision of disqualifying a person with criminal record is to ensure they are not elected to public office.

"Disqualifying a person who has been convicted of a serious offence from holding public office is in the interest of maintaining the integrity and credibility of the democratic process," the HC said.

Considering the objective and purpose of provisions of Representation of the People Act, it could not be an exceptional circumstance for grant of stay to the conviction merely because the accused has to represent his constituency, the court said.

"The objective of legislatures in keeping away convicts from contesting elections is to be looked into while deciding such applications," HC said.

Asserting that the granting of stay of conviction should not be a rule but an exception, the HC said, "The powers to suspend the conviction are to be exercised with a due care and caution and that too in exceptional circumstances."

The court has a duty to look at all aspects including ramification of keeping such conviction in abeyance, the HC order emphasised.

The HC in its judgment said Kedar was the custodian and was entrusted with the property, which is a public fund and the same was misappropriated.

"Thus, involvement of the accused is in an economic offence. The accused is involved in the offences which are economic offences in the nature wherein public money is involved," it said.

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Published 04 July 2024, 16:52 IST

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