Gujarat High Court Judge refuses to hear Hardik’s petition seeking stay on a lower court order to pave way for his contesting LS poll

Ahmedabad: Justice R P Dholaria of Gujarat High Court today recused (refused to hear) the petition of Congress and PAAS leader Hardik Patel in which he had sought a stay on the conviction by a local court in Mahesana district in a rioting case of July 2015 so that he was not disqualified from contesting the next Loksabha poll.

Hardik, who had formally joined Congress yesterday, had filed the petition in the high court on March 8.

When it was put up before Justice Dholaria for hearing he said ‘not before me’ and recused himself from hearing the matter. Now the matter would be handed over to another judge for hearing.

Notably Justice Dholaria had in August last year also recused himself from hearing a petition by Patidar Anamat Aandolan Samiti (PAAS) in which it was alleged that the police were creating hurdles for Hardik Patel’s then indefinite fast by restricting his supporters to meet him at his residence here.

Justice Dholaria a senior judge and coincidentally a Patidar himself (the caste to which Hardik also belongs to and around which his agitation was built up) and native of Khamba taluka in Patidar dominant Amreli district of Saurashtra region in Gujarat, had also in the last year refused to hear another matter involving the PAAS leader in similar manner. It was Hardik’s discharge petition in a sedition case.

Hardik had moved High Court to get a stay on the conviction by a local court in Mahesana district in a rioting case of July 2015 so that he was not disqualified from contesting the next Loksabha poll.

The case was pertaining to the violence, arson and attack on the office of the then local BJP MLA Rushikesh Patel in Visnagar town of Mahesana district during a pro quota rally of PAAS on July 23, 2015 A local court had on July 25 last year held Hardik Patel, SPG leader Lalji Patel and another Patidar leader A K Patel guilty in the case and sentenced 2 years of simple imprisonment and imposed Rs 50 thousand fine. The court had acquitted the other 14 accused. The trio was granted regular bail by the Gujarat high court in August last year.

Hardik’s counsel Rafik Lokhandwala said, ‘We have made a prayer before the court to put a stay on the conviction and the sentence against Hardik so that he could contest the next LS poll without any fear of rejection of his nomination’ he said.

Notably, as per existing law a person convicted in any case with a jail term of 2 years or above can’t contest an election.

Hardik has expressed his willingness to contest coming LS poll. Though he has not revealed more details publicly, it is learnt that he was willing to contest on Jamnagar seat in Saurashtra region of Gujarat.
Hardik had earlier moved moved high court against the lower court order seeking its quashing. He had submitted that he had not committed the crime or done anything wrong. The appeal is still pending for hearing and the court has not stayed the conviction. The court would hear that appeal later.

Police had filed a chargesheet against Hardik and 16 others in March 2016 in the case.

Police had pressed the charges under sections 337 (causing hurt by endangering life or personal safety), 394 (causing hurt while committing robbery), 427 (causing damage to property) and 435 (using fire or explosives to cause damage) of Indian Penal Code and also under Gujarat Police Act against him and others.

They are accused of being part of a group of around 500 youths from the Patel community which vandalised the office of the BJP legislator, torched a car kept outside, attacked a journalist on July 23, 2015.

“The group attacked a journalist who was recording the incident, broke video camera and injured him. They also looted a mobile phone worth Rs. 10,000 and set a car on fire,” the chargesheet had alleged.