India’s main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, was disqualified from Loksabha membership after his conviction and two years sentence in consequence of that conviction, in a case of defamation. But, the Surat court which decided his conviction and sentence, suspended the sentence for 30 days and allowed him to appeal against that conviction in appellate court.

Some people might wonder what is the difference between staying of conviction and suspending of sentence, here in this article, we will try to explain that.

In Ravikant S. Patil v. Sarvabhouma S. Bagali [(2007) 1 SCC 673], a contention was raised by the respondents that the appellant was disqualified from contesting the election to the Legislative Assembly under sub-section (3) of Section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 as he had been convicted for an offence punishable under Sections 366 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code and it was held by the three-Judge Bench of the supreme court that as the High Court for special reasons had passed an order staying the conviction, the disqualification arising out of the conviction ceased to operate after the stay of conviction.

A three-Judge Bench of this Court, however, observed:

“It deserves to be clarified that an order granting stay of conviction is not the rule but is an exception to be resorted to in rare cases depending upon the facts of a case. Where the execution of the sentence is stayed, the conviction continues to operate. But where the conviction itself is stayed, the effect is that the conviction will not be operative from the date of stay. An order of stay, of course, does not render the conviction non-existent, but only non-operative. Be that as it may.

Insofar as the present case is concerned, an application was filed specifically seeking stay of the order of conviction specifying the consequences if conviction was not stayed, that is, the appellant would incur disqualification to contest the election. The High Court after considering the special reason, granted the order staying the conviction. As the conviction itself is stayed in contrast to a stay of execution of the sentence, it is not possible to accept the contention of the respondent that the disqualification arising out of conviction continues to operate even after stay of conviction.”