Ahmedabad: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the conviction of Patidar agitation spearhead and Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel in a 2015 quota agitation violence case, paving the way for him to contest elections.
This refers to a 2015 case during the peak of the Patidar agitation for reservations to the Patels in government jobs and educational institutions under the OBC category.
Hardik Patel, who led the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), was accused of ransacking the office of the BJP MLA from Visnagar. He had not joined the Congress then but became a key campaigner subsequently for the party during the 2017 State Assembly elections, which brought the opposition close to snatching power from the BJP.
In 2018, a sessions court in Visnagar of Mehsana district in North Gujarat sentenced him to two years imprisonment on the charges of rioting and arson. Following Patel’s petition in the Gujarat High Court, the latter suspended his sentence but refused to grant a stay on his conviction.
Under the Representation of the People Act, a convict facing jail term of two years or more cannot contest an election unless the conviction is stayed. Since his conviction was not stayed, Patel could not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Patidar leader had then approached the Supreme Court challenging the high court orders.
After the apex court’s stay order, Hardik Patel took to Twitter with a post in Hindi that his aim was not only to contest elections but serve the people of Gujarat with more vigor.
He said he was slapped two-year imprisonment in a fabricated case but today the Supreme Court stayed the conviction. "I thank the judiciary from the bottom of my heart," he said.
When contacted, Patel said he would surely contest the upcoming State Assembly elections in Gujarat and serve the people of the State more effectively.
The apex court order came as a whiff of fresh air for the beleaguered Congress party in Gujarat that faces a tough contest against the BJP’s rule of 27 years with the Aam Aadmi Party and the AIMIM queering the pitch for it.