Rahul Gandhi may well prepare himself for a long break from the Lok Sabha — even if a higher court suspends his conviction by a Surat court in a defamation case — if disqualified Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal’s situation is anything to go by.
The lone lawmaker from Lakshadweep, who was disqualified, told South First that he has been waiting for over a month for the Lok Sabha to reinstate him after the Kerala High Court suspended his conviction by a trial court in an attempt to murder case.
His reinstatement is entirely up to the discretion of the Speaker of the House.
If the same pattern follows, Rahul Gandhi, who was disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha on Friday, 24 March, may have to wait a long time till he is reinstated even if a court stays or suspends his conviction.
“Even after my sentence was suspended by the Kerala High Court, which the Supreme Court later upheld, I have still not been reinstated as an MP by the Speaker,” Mohammed Faizal told South First.
The Lakshadweep lawmaker’s case
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader who was elected from Lakshadweep was disqualified from the Lok Sabha after a conviction in an attempt to murder case by a sessions court in Kavartti on 10 January.
The Lok Sabha disqualified him on 13 January with effect from the date of conviction. He soon moved the Kerala High Court which, on 25 January, suspended the conviction, paving the way for his return to Parliament.
The Lakshadweep administration, however, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Kerala High Court order, seeking a stay.
But the Supreme Court upheld the high court order 20 February.
Letters to the Speaker
The NCP leader in the Lok Sabha, Supriya Sule, wrote to the Speaker on 23 February asking for his reinstatement.
Faizal himself also wrote to the Speaker on 24 February.
“Despite the order of the High Court of Kerala staying my conviction, and the said High Court order having not been stayed by the Supreme Court, I have not been rightfully reinstated to my position in the Lok Sabha. This is causing grave prejudice to me as well as to the public interest at large as I am not being permitted to participate in the proceedings pertaining to the Lok Sabha,” he said in his letter.
He also said that the delay in the decision to reinstate him as a Member of Parliament is arbitrary and in violation of his constitutional rights, specifically under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Will @RahulGandhi be reinstated as an MP if Gujarat HC suspends his conviction? History says not immediately. Former L'dweep MP @faizalpp786 is not reinstated by the Lok Sabha Speaker even two months after Kerala HC suspended his sentence. @TheSouthfirst pic.twitter.com/7li86MXCuA
— MUHAMMED FAZIL (@muhamdfazil) March 24, 2023
Attempt to silence Opposition
“Just like I have not been reinstated, Rahul Gandhi will also face the same justice from the ruling party,” Faizal told South First.
“This is an attempt to forcefully shut the mouth of the Opposition leaders who speak against the ruling BJP. The ruling government is trying to lower the number of people in Lok Sabha who are against them,” added Faizal.
According to the Lily Thomas Vs Union of India judgment on 10 July, 2013, any elected representative, if convicted of a crime and given a sentence of two or more years will be disqualified, effective immediately.
“Since the sentence of Mohammed Faizal is suspended, he is no more a convict and he should be reinstated as an MP. However, the previous Supreme Court orders don’t mention any specific time frame for the same. So technically, it’s up to the Speaker of the House to decide when to reinstate an MP,” Supreme Court lawyer Mohammad Suhail told South First.
The court in Lakshadweep had on 10 January sentenced four people, including Faizal, to 10 years in jail after they were found guilty in an attempt to murder case.
The others who were convicted are Faizal’s brother and two of his relatives, listed as accused Nos 1 to 4.
The Kavaratti Sessions Court also imposed a fine of ₹1 lakh each on the convicts for attempting to kill Mohammed Salih, son-in-law of late Congress leader, former Union Minister, and long-time parliamentarian from Lakshadweep, PM Sayeed, in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
The case pertains to Faizal, who is an MBA from Calicut University, and his accomplices attacking and seriously injuring Muhammed Salih, who was also a Congress worker, ahead of the 2009 polls.
According to the prosecution, Faizal, along with 36 other accused persons, attacked Salih after wrongfully confining him and his friend Mohammed Kassim at a house on Andrott island.
The mob, which was armed with deadly weapons, including Faizal, chased Salih when he tried to flee the spot, forcefully entered a house where he had taken shelter, and brutally attacked him with sticks, choppers, and iron rods, the prosecution said.
The house belonged to one Kadeejummabi, a key witness in the case.
Salih, who was severely wounded, had to be evacuated to Ernakulam in Kerala in a chopper where he spent several months recovering, the prosecution said.
However, after the judgement, Faizal said that the case in which he was convicted was one-sided, and the investigating agency framed charges against him due to which he was convicted.
“The police claimed that Salih was attacked with sharp objects but the medical certificate presented by the police clearly says that no sharp weapons were used and his injury was caused by a blunt object,” said Faizal.
Timeline of the case
10 January: Sessions Court in Kavartti convicts Mohammad Faizal and four others in an attempt to murder case.
13 January: An order was issued by the Lok Sabha Speaker disqualifying Faizal as an MP with effect from 10 January.
18 January: Election Commission issues notification regarding the by-polls in Lakshadweep.
25 January: Kerala High Court suspends the session’s court judgement on the conviction and the sentence of the former MP.
20 February: The Supreme Court refuses to stay the Kerala High Court order suspending the conviction and sentence, on a petition filed by the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.
The matter will be heard by the Supreme Court on 28 March.