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In a huge setback to popular film actor Sanjay Dutt’s political aspirations and the Samajwadi Party’s attempts to capitalise on his popularity among the people, the Supreme Court rejected his plea seeking the suspension of the conviction and six years’ sentence in the Arms Act case to enable him to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls from Lucknow. The Court, while dismissing his petition, said that the stay on conviction and sentence to enable convicts to contest the elections shall be exercised only under ``exceptional circumstances.’’

“We do not think that this is a fit case where conviction and sentence could be suspended so that the bar under Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 will not operate against the petitioner (Mr Dutt)”, said a bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice P Sathasivam and Justice RM Lodha.

The Representation of People’s Act prohibits any person who has been convicted for any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years from contesting the election and such person shall be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.

With the Supreme Court refusing to endorse Mr Dutt’s attempts to enter the electoral arena, the Samajwadi Party’s attempts to wrest the prestigious Lucknow Lok Sabha seat, represented since 1991 by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, from the BJP has been dealt a severe blow. It also poured cold water on the party’s efforts to ride on his across-the-board popularity to swell its numbers from the state.

The bench said, “In view of the serious offence for which he (Dutt) has been convicted by the Special Judge, we are not inclined to suspend the conviction and sentence awarded by the special judge in the present case”.

The court refused to buy the argument that the film actor, who won critical acclaim for his role in the Munnabhai series, that his recent behaviour and track-record should be factored in while showing leniency. The court further rejected the petitioner’s plea for using its verdict in cricketer-turnedpolitician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s case as a reference-point to mete out a similar treatment towards Mr Dutt. 

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