Kolkata, Sep 8 (IANS) A West Bengal court on Tuesday convicted Trinamool Congress legislator Sohrab Ali in a case under the Railways Property Act and sentenced him to two years jail, his counsel said.
Ali, lawmaker from Raniganj in Burdwan district, was booked in 1995 after some railway properties were recovered from his premises.
“The court of judicial magistrate (Asansol) convicted and sentenced him to two years. But the sentence has been stayed for three months to allow Ali to file an appeal before a higher court,” said the legislator’s counsel Jagadindra Ganguly.
“Since he has been convicted, we moved a prayer for his bail, which the court granted,” he added.
While the Supreme Court has held that a legislator or a MP will be disqualified from holding membership of the house immediately from the date of conviction, Ganguly claimed that since the court has stayed the conviction, Ali continues to be a member of the West Bengal assembly.
“Since the court has granted three months time for filing the appeal, Ali has not been disqualified. He will continue to be a member until a higher court upholds this verdict,” he said.
However, former Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee asserted Ali stands disqualified.
“As per the Supreme Court, once an MLA or MP is convicted he is disqualified as a member. Even if he moves in appeal to a higher court, his disqualification will continue. But in Bengal law is often not allowed to take its course,” said Justice Ganguly.
Chatterjee, who is also a prominent lawyer, said Ali stands disqualified.
“Even if his conviction is reversed in appeal, he will have to re-contest to be back as a member,” said Chatterjee, citing the example of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
Jayalalithaa was disqualified from holding office due to conviction in a disproportionate assets case. However, after the Karnataka High Court acquitted her on appeal, she was subsequently re-elected to the assembly and resumed office as chief minister.
Former West Bengal assembly speaker Hashim Abdul Halim also said that Ali was disqualified as a member as soon as he was convicted by the court.