Bhopal: A special court designated for the trial of politicians in Madhya Pradesh on Friday, November 1, sentenced Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Pawai Assembly seat, Prahlad Lodhi to two years in jail for assaulting a government servant.
The court found him guilty for attacking a tehsildar in Raipura town, who had seized a sand-laden tractor-trolley. The MLA has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 2,000. He has been charged for rioting, assault on government officials and breach of peace. Nevertheless, he managed to get a bail immediately.
Following the special court’s verdict, the MLA may lose his membership of state Assembly, as per a 2013 Supreme Court order. In the order, the apex court had upheld that as per the Representation of the Peoples Act 1951, an MLA will be disqualified if he/she is sentenced to two years or more in jail. As per this provision, the process of disqualification of Lodhi will begin in the Assembly once the copy of the judgement is received.
This is the second blow to the BJP within a fortnight, after the Jhabua bypoll defeat, where Congress leader Kantilal Bhuria trounced BJP’s Bhanu Bhuria with 27,000 votes.
According to section 8(4) of the said Act, a public representative could not be held disqualified as a period of 3 months was given to file an appeal against the judgement. The Supreme Court had termed the section as unconstitutional in 2013.
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The order upheld that as per the Section 8(3) of the said Act, a public representative will be disqualified if he is sentenced for two years or more jail term and will not be able to contest elections for six years after completing his jail sentence. This provision would be applicable in Lodhi’s case.
With Lodhi being disqualified, the BJP will be left with 107 members in the 230-member state Assembly. It will also call for bypolls. Congress, after winning Jhabua bypolls, has 115 MLAs in its tally. The new bypolls will provide another opportunity to the ruling party in the state to ensure a majority in the Assembly. According to Principal Secretary of the state Assembly, AP Singh, lawful action would be taken according to the Representation of the People Act once the copy of the court judgment is received.
A day earlier on Thursday, while hearing the case of a Congress MLA Babulal Jandel and 14 others under the same charges of rioting, assault on government officials and breach of peace, the special court has awarded one year of rigorous imprisonment. The incident had taken place on January 2, 2008.
Soon after the verdict, the court in Bhopal upheld the magistrate’s order and Babulal Jandel was immediately sent to jail. He may have to move the high court to apply for a bail.
Jandel is a Congress legislature from Sheopur constituency of the state.