Lakshadweep Lok Sabha MP Mohammed Faizal is again likely to face disqualification with the Kerala High Court, on Tuesday, 3 October, rejecting his plea for suspending his conviction in an attempted murder case.
While declining to suspend the Lakshadweep MP’s conviction, the high court suspended the 10-year sentence given to Faizal and three others in the case.
In its order rejecting the plea for suspending the NCP lawmaker’s conviction, the high court noted that criminalisation of the election process was a matter of grave concern in India’s democratic polity.
The high court’s order
The order said, “The tentacles of political crimes and criminalisation of the election process have started grappling with free and fair elections.”
“Incidents of criminal acts being committed even during meetings of legislative bodies are surfacing,” Justice N Nagaresh said, in his order.
The high court further observed that “proliferation of crime in the election process could garner momentum to cripple Indian democracy if men with criminal background are allowed to continue to be part of the democratic system.”
‘Criminal acts on the part of accused’
Justice Nagaresh further said that if persons with criminal antecedents were permitted to continue as Members of Parliament/ Legislatures even after conviction by a competent court, “that would only send wrong signals to the public at large”.
The high court said that the materials before it, prima facie, indicate the criminal acts on the part of the accused.
The court further said, “As there are materials prima facie evidencing the criminal acts on the part of the accused, I am of the firm view that this is not a fit case to suspend the order of conviction imposed on the 2nd petitioner (Faizal).”
“The prayer of the 2nd petitioner for suspension of the order of conviction is therefore rejected. The suspension of the sentence of accused 1 to 4 as per order dated 25 January 2023, and the conditions subject to which the sentence is suspended, will continue pending final disposal of the appeal,” the high court said.
‘Conviction not sustainable’
While Faizal’s lawyer — senior advocate Kapil Sibal — said not suspending his sentence would lead to his disqualification just nine months before the Lok Sabha polls, which, in turn, would cause irreparable damage.
He also contended that injuries suffered by the complainant were simple in nature and no weapons were also recovered therefore, a conviction was not sustainable.
Opposing the contentions, Additional Solicitor General of India (ASG) ARL Sundaresan and Deputy Solicitor General of India (DSGI) Manu S, argued that evidence adduced in the case shows the petitioners (Faizal and three others) were guilty of the offences alleged against them.
“Elected legislators cannot be treated differently from ordinary citizens,” the two senior government lawyers representing the Lakshadweep administration said.
The ASG and DSGI also told the high court that according to the doctor’s report injuries sustained by the victim were sufficient to cause death if no medical assistance was provided.
Background on the case
A sessions court in Lakshadweep on 11 January sentenced Faizal and three others for attempting to kill Mohammed Salih, son-in-law of the late union minister PM Sayeed, during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Faizal had moved the Kerala High Court against the order and the HC suspended his conviction and sentence on 25 January.
The 25 January decision of the high court was challenged by the Lakshadweep administration in the Supreme Court.
The apex court on 22 August, had termed the high court’s decision as “erroneous” and set aside the verdict suspending the conviction of the NCP lawmaker.
Stay on suspension
The top court had temporarily protected the status of Faizal as an MP for three weeks, saying the benefit of the high court’s impugned order, staying the suspension, will remain in operation during the period keeping in mind that there should not be any vacuum with regard to representation of the Lakshadweep Lok Sabha constituency in Parliament.
It had remanded the matter back to the high court and asked it to decide afresh the lawmaker’s application seeking a stay of his conviction within this period.
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