EC can technically hold bypoll to Wayanad Lok Sabha seat: Expert

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Election Commission of India | Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday stood disqualified from contesting Lok Sabha and Assembly elections for eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction, an expert on electoral laws said.

Citing Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, the expert said the disqualification will be for eight years -- two years of the jail term awarded by the court and another six years from the date of his release as prescribed in the law.

Jail term of two years or more attracts disqualification under the Act.

"He stands disqualified for a total period of eight years unless a higher court stays his conviction," said a former Election Commission official who is an expert on electoral laws.

He also said "technically" the Election Commission can hold a bypoll to the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat in Kerala as there is more than one year before the term of the present Lok Sabha expires sometime in June next year. Assembly and parliamentary bypolls are avoided if the remaining term of the House is for less than one year.

The expert, who did not wish to be named, felt that the EC is likely to wait for the 30-day period granted by the court to allow the former Congress president file an appeal against the conviction.

Gandhi was disqualified from Lok Sabha on Friday, a day after he was convicted by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case.

Announcing his disqualification, the Lok Sabha Secretariat in a notification said that it was effective from March 23, the day of his conviction.

"Consequent upon his conviction by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Surat...Rahul Gandhi, Member of Lok Sabha representing the Wayanad Parliamentary Constituency of Kerala stands disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha from the date of his conviction i.e. 23 March, 2023," the notification read.

The court in Surat sentenced on Thursday Gandhi to two years in jail in a defamation case, filed on a complaint by BJP MLA Purnesh Modi for his alleged "Modi surname" remark.

The Surat court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal in a higher court.

Gandhi is the second member of Lok Sabha, after Lakshadweep MP P P Mohammed Faisal of the Nationalist Congress Party, to have been disqualified in the recent past following conviction.

The Kavaratti sessions court in Lakshadweep had sentenced four persons, including Mohammed Faizal to 10 years in jail after they were found guilty in an attempt-to-murder case.

Following the conviction, Faizal was disqualified.

However, the Kerala High Court later suspended his conviction and sentence. According to the MP, the Lok Sabha Secretariat is yet to issue a notification revoking his disqualification.

Mohd Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party was disqualified as a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly following his conviction in a hate speech case.

His son Abdullah Azam, also an SP MLA in UP, was disqualified after being convicted in a case related to attack on policemen.

BJP's Vikram Saini was disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly following his conviction last year in a Muzaffarnagar riots case.

RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa too have faced disqualification from Parliament and Assembly respectively following their convictions. PTI

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